Skip to main content

Sure, you can trust the government. Just ask any Indian.

The latest dispute between New York State and the Seneca Nation of Indians involves billing the state for each car that passes through the Cattaraugus Reservation on the New York State Thruway near Silver Creek, NY. This comes as part of Governor Eliot Spitzer's 2007 budget, which aims to raise money more as a result of user fees as passing the buck onto others as opposed to raising taxes for ordinary New Yorkers. As a result of the budget, New York State is aiming to collect sales tax from non-Senecas who make purchases from reservation stores, mostly from cigarette and gasoline sales. These taxes would imposed on non-Seneca customers only.

In the often-peculiar relationship between the two parties, this isn't the first time that the Senecas and New York State have come to quarreling over the matter of tax collection. In 1997, then-Governor George Pataki tried to collect tobacco taxes from the Senecas, which led to tire burnings that closed down the Thruway and possibly the Southern Tier Expressway (in Salamanca, NY) as well. On April 18, 2007, the Senecas voted to rescind a 1954 resolution that allowed part of the New York State Thruway to cross the Cattaraugus Reservation, which is the area in question. On May 5, 2007 the tribe threatened to cancel a 1976 agreement that allowed construction of what is now Interstate 86 through the Allegany Reservation near Salamanca, NY. A week later, Gov. Spitzer and Seneca tribal leaders, including Senenca tribal president Maurice John, Sr., met in New York City to discuss their differences. The end result is that they will continue to talk.

According to the Buffalo News, the Senecas' Foreign Relations Committee was exploring the possibility of purchasing old toll booths for the purpose of collecting tolls for the length of the Thruway that crosses the reservation in the southwest corner of Erie County. The toll booths in question were from I-190 in Buffalo, NY, which were removed last year. The Senecas have contacted Oakgrove Construction of Elma, NY, who have won the bid to tear down the I-190 booths, in order to see if they can purchase the boots after they are removed from Buffalo. The construction firm, who has an established business presence with the Thruway Authority, has decided to deny the Senecas' request, because they do not want to be caught in the middle of an embarassing situation.

Instead, at least for the time being, the Senecas will bill the state $1 for each vehicle traveling through their part of the Thruway, and have already done so. It is possible that this could equal out to be over $9 million a year. The Senecas have probably realized that tire burning does more environmental harm than make a political statement and have decided to attack the state's piggy bank instead. According to the Albany Times Union, an average of 26,000 vehicles drive the aforementioned stretch of the Thruway daily. Doing the math, that's some 9.5 million vehicles annually.

Now, I am not sure how much sales taxes for gasoline and cigarettes go through the various reservations in New York State each year, or if there is any compliance with the tax payments by other tribes located in the state. It does strike me that the Senecas are the ones who make a big fuss about this, and not the Mohawks or Oneidas or any other tribe with reservation lands in the Empire State. To my knowledge, it is mostly the Senecas who have taken recent issue with taxation. Then again, I would have the agree with the Senecas, because based upon various treaties and laws, they have levels of autonomy and sovereignity that should be respected. That includes not having to collect sales tax for use of another government to consumers who are not part of the tribe. The lower prices that are charged on tobacco and fuel on reservations are a draw for the tribe and brings people in, helping the tribe raise much needed money. If you have ever driven through a reservation, you may realize that the standard of living is poor in comparison to lands outside the reservation. This is a good way for the tribes to make money.

My feeling that is as long as New York State is willing to tax goods purchased on reservations, the Senecas will play hardball and charge the state for Thruway use. Once the state backs down on their demands, the Senecas will do the same.

http://www.timesunion.com/AspStories/story.asp?storyID=590530 - Albany Times Union
http://www.buffalonews.com/210/story/76794.html - Buffalo News

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Niagara Falls

  Arguably the world's most famous waterfall, or rather a set of waterfalls, Niagara Falls may not need much of an introduction, as it is a very popular tourist attraction in both New York State and the Province of Ontario, a destination of plenty of honeymooning couples, vacationing families and college students out for a good time for a weekend. Niagara Falls is also the site of many daredevil activities over the years, such as tightrope walking and going over the falls in a barrel. It is always nice to have a bit of a refresher, of course. Niagara Falls is made up of two main waterfalls, American Falls (also known as Rainbow Falls), which is on the American side of the border and Horseshoe Falls (also known as Canadian Falls), where the border between the United States and Canada crosses. There is also a smaller waterfall on the New York side of the border, which is Bridal Veil Falls. The height of the waterfalls are impressive, with Horseshoe Falls measuring at

The Smithtown Bull in Smithtown, New York

  Before I moved to Upstate New York as a young man, I grew up in the Long Island town of Smithtown during the 1980s and 1990s. The recognizable symbol of Smithtown is a bronze statue of a bull named Whisper, located at the junction of NY Route 25 and NY Route 25A near the bridge over the Nissequogue River. Why a bull, you may ask. The bull is a symbol of a legend related to the town's founding in 1665 by Richard "Bull" Smythe, with a modernized name of Richard Smith. It also so happens that there is a story behind the legend, one that involves ancient land right transfers and some modern day roads as well. So the story goes that Smythe made an agreement with a local Indian tribe where Smythe could keep whatever land he circled around in a day's time riding atop his trusty bull. Choosing the longest day of the year for his ride, he set out with his bull Whisper and went about riding around the borders of the Town of Smithtown. As legend has it, Smythe t

Route 75 Tunnel - Ironton, Ohio

In the Ohio River community of Ironton, Ohio, there is a former road tunnel that has a haunted legend to it. This tunnel was formerly numbered OH 75 (hence the name Route 75 Tunnel), which was renumbered as OH 93 due to I-75 being built in the state. Built in 1866, it is 165 feet long and once served as the northern entrance into Ironton, originally for horses and buggies and later for cars. As the tunnel predated the motor vehicle era, it was too narrow for cars to be traveling in both directions. But once US 52 was built in the area, OH 93 was realigned to go around the tunnel instead of through the tunnel, so the tunnel was closed to traffic in 1960. The legend of the haunted tunnel states that since there were so many accidents that took place inside the tunnel's narrow walls, the tunnel was cursed. The haunted legend states that there was an accident between a tanker truck and a school bus coming home after a high school football game on a cold, foggy Halloween night in 1