"New York state has started a minor Indian war over cigarette taxes. Florida also should think about trying to collect state taxes on cigarettes sold by the Seminoles. But negotiation would be better than confrontation.
New York insists that it has the right to collect state taxes on cigarettes that Indians sell to non-Indians. But there's been no practical way to collect it. A new state law requires cigarette wholesalers who provide cigarettes to the tribes to certify that the proper taxes are paid.
Courts have ruled that approach unworkable, and the law is on hold. For their part, the tribes, which make a lot of money selling cigarettes to non-Indians, maintain that the state has no power to impose cigarette taxes of any kind on them. The Senecas say that if the state keeps trying to make them pay a cigarette tax, they'll impose tolls on the New York State Thruway where it crosses Seneca land and charge each vehicle $2.
New York last year raised its cigarette tax to $2.75 per pack, making it the highest in the nation. Obviously, reservation smoke shops can sell their cigarettes much cheaper than their off-reservation competitors.
Decades ago, Florida had one of the highest cigarette taxes, and the Seminoles enjoyed a similar advantage to what New York's Senecas have now. But now, Florida's cigarette tax of 33.9 cents per pack is one of the country's lowest. That could change soon. Facing a deficit of up to $5 billion, the Legislature may increase the cigarette tax by $1 a pack.
That could be a windfall for the Seminoles. They could raise their own prices by, say, 50 cents - which they would get to keep for themselves - and still undercut competitors."
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Editorial: Smoke a cigarette peace pipe
(The Palm Beach Post 2/7)