"Arbiters who were asked to resolve a dispute between the state and the Cherokee Nation over a tobacco compact gave the tribe a serious scolding. The question now is, what's next?.
Will the tribe begin to abide by the compact it signed in November 2004, and force its licensed retailers to abide as well? Arbiters were clear in their ruling last week that the practice of selling low-tax cigarettes where they aren't allowed had deprived the state, and the tribe, of millions of dollars that should be going toward health care initiatives.
How binding is the ruling? Gov. Brad Henry and his top aide, Treasurer Scott Meacham, thought they had a sound compact, but the tribe felt otherwise and so did little or nothing to encourage retailers to follow it.
Will the Tax Commission now fully implement a rule it passed in 2006 that would limit the number of 6-cent tax stamps wholesalers can sell to retail outlets? The rule was seen as a way to curb the proliferation of cigarettes being sold at the low-tax rate. The arbitration panel found the rule does not violate the compact.
In their strongly worded ruling, arbiters said tribal retailers weren't allowed to sell cigarettes with 6-cent stamps outside of the border areas spelled out in the compact. Those low-tax smokes have been sold abundantly by retailers in the Tulsa area, where they should be taxed at 86 cents per pack."
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Editorial: Tobacco talk: Retailers, tribe get a scolding
(The Oklahoman 4/1)
Ruling faults Cherokee Nation on tobacco compact