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News stories tagged with "cigarettes"

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Tobacco tax halted

A state appellate court decision has put the brakes on New York's plan to collect taxes from native-owned tobacco stores. Judge Samuel Green issued a stay yesterday in Buffalo. A spokeswoman for Governor Paterson told the Buffalo News the order means the state is standing down indefinitely on collecting the tobacco taxes. She called the ruling "disappointing". The taxes would raise an estimated 200 million dollars for cash-strapped Albany. David Staddon, a spokesman for the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe near Massena, says New York's plan is a violation of tribal sovereignty. Martha Foley has more.  Go to full article
Mike Hennessey (D-Sherill)
Mike Hennessey (D-Sherill)

Oneida Democrat seeks to unseat Griffo

A three-term Oneida County legislator wants to unseat Republican State Senator Joe Griffo. Democrat Mike Hennessey lives in the city of Sherill, which has been embroiled in land claim and cigarette tax issues with the Oneida Indian Nation. So it's no surprise Hennessey wants New York to collect taxes on tobacco sold at native-owned stores as a way to close the state deficit. He also wants to eliminate unfunded state mandates, reform state ethics codes, and create jobs. Hennessey is a financial advisor and former small business owner. He told David Sommerstein a visit to a local soup kitchen for veterans compelled him to run for State Senate.  Go to full article

Paterson wades into tobacco tax controversy

Facing a more than $7 billion deficit, Governor Paterson is plumbing even long-shot revenue sources to make up the spending gap - things like the so-called "obesity tax" on soft drinks. Another is collecting tobacco taxes from the state's Indian Nations. Initial reaction from tribal chiefs suggests Albany shouldn't expect the money anytime soon. As David Sommerstein reports, Paterson has been reluctant to tread where past Governors have failed.  Go to full article

Mohawks prefer diplomacy in tobacco tax fight

Last year, Governor Paterson signed into law a bill that would enforce collection of state tobacco taxes when non-natives buy cigarettes at native-owned stores. Albany estimates up to 400 million dollars a year in taxes are going uncollected. But like his three predecessors, Paterson's administration said last week it will not try to collect the taxes. Remember when the Seneca Nation burned tires on the Thruway when then-Governor George Pataki tried to collect them? The whole issue is knotted up in lawsuits. New York City is suing a Long Island tribe. Two counties are suing the Cayuga Nation. The rulings could set precedents in the now cloudy case of tobacco taxes and native tribes. Jim Ransom says there's an easy solution - sit down and talk. Ransom is chief of the St. Regis Mohawk tribe in Akwesasne. The Mohawks are at odds with New York State over three issues - the cigarette taxes, land claims in St. Lawrence and Franklin counties, and building a casino in the Catskills. Ransom says one agreement can resolve them all.  Go to full article

Mohawks: tobacco smuggling answers lie in cooperation

Last week, the Center for Public Integrity released an exhaustive investigation on the confluence of illegal tobacco, drugs, and organized crime on the Mohawk reservations on the St. Lawrence River. Yesterday we spoke with the report's author.

Today, the Mohawks' side of things. Chiefs of the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe near Massena say Canada and the United States are raising cigarette taxes without considering historic tribal rights to trade tobacco. Chief Jim Ransom says the author of the Center for Public Integrity report didn't even request an interview with tribal chiefs. The Mohawks have endured a reputation as smugglers even before tobacco companies worked with some natives to traffic untaxed cigarettes into Canada in the 1990s. This year's surprise hit film, Frozen River, has brought Akwesasne's reputation to the big screen and the nation. Chief Ransom told David Sommerstein he condemns the drug trafficking and crime that happens in Akwesasne. But he says the characterization ignores the history of oppression and environmental degradation brought on the Mohawks.  Go to full article

Report ties organized crime, drugs to Akwesasne tobacco trafficking

A new report details the billion dollar trafficking of untaxed cigarettes into Canada from the Akwesasne Mohawk reservation near Massena. The investigation by the Center for Public Integrity documented 5 to 10 unlicensed tobacco factories in Akwesasne and on the Kahnawake reserve near Montreal.

Smugglers carry cigarettes across the Canadian border and sell them in Ontario and Quebec for $20 a carton. A legally taxed carton costs $80 to $90. The Canadian government estimates it is losing $1.6 billion a year in taxes while health care costs associated with smoking are rising. William Marsden of the Montreal Gazette reported the story. He told David Sommerstein the tobacco smuggling has attracted more organized crime and drugs to an already porous region of the U.S.-Canada border.  Go to full article

Mohawks on tobacco tax: "sit down with us"

On Monday, Governor Paterson signed a bill to enforce collection of taxes on cigarettes sold at native-owned stores. Supporters say the law will bring the state anywhere from 60 million to almost a billion dollars in new revenue. But it's highly unlikely that money would do anything to help close next year's massive budget deficit. According to the Buffalo News, Seneca Nation President Barry Snyder says Governor Paterson himself said the new law is "flawed" and "political." Native tribes across New York have vowed to fight the law in court, saying it violates their sovereignty. Jim Ransom, chief of the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe in Akwesasne, says it also would make the economy worse and deepen an already grave smuggling problem. Ransom told David Sommerstein a loss of cigarette sales would affect 400 to 500 people in and around the reservation between Massena and Malone.  Go to full article

Newspaper report: smuggling surges along US-Canada border

A newspaper in Ottawa is reporting this week that illegal cigarette smuggling across the US Canada border is booming. Despite hundreds of millions of dollars spent on Homeland Security, critics say illegal border crossings have returned to levels not seen since the 1990s. In January alone, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police seized over 72,000 cartons of cigarettes. Brian Mann has details.  Go to full article

R.J. Reynolds to end sales of flavored cigarettes

Attorney General Eliot Spitzer and Attorneys General from 37 other states have reached an agreement with the R.J. Reynolds Company to ban the sale of candy-flavored cigarettes. Karen DeWitt reports.  Go to full article

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