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

California State Route 232

This past month I drove the entirety of California State Route 232 in Ventura County. CA 232 is an approximately 4 miles State Highway aligned on Vineland Avenye which begins near Saticoy at CA 118 and traverses southwest to US Route 101 in Oxnard.  The alignment of CA 232 was first adopted into the State Highway System in 1933 as Legislative Route Number 154 according to CAhighways.org. CAhighways.org on LRN 154 As originally defined LRN 154 was aligned from LRN 9 (future CA 118) southwest to LRN 2/US 101 in El Rio.  This configuration of LRN 154 between CA 118/LRN 9 and US 101/LRN 2 can be seen on the 1935 California Division of Highways Map of Ventura County. 1935 Ventura County Highway Map According to CAhighways.org the route of LRN 154 was extended west from US 101/LRN 2 to US 101A/LRN 60 in 1951.  Unfortunately State Highway Maps do not show this extension due to it being extremely small. During the 1964 State Highway Renumbering LRN 154 was assigned CA 232.  Of n

Former US Route 101 and California State Route 1 in San Luis Obispo

Originally US Route 101 upon descending Cuesta Pass southbound entered the City of San Luis Obispo via Monterey Street.  From Monterey Street US Route 101 utilized Santa Rosa Street and Higuera Street southbound through downtown San Luis Obispo.  Upon departing downtown San Luis Obispo US Route 101 would have stayed on Higuera Street southward towards Pismo Beach and Arroyo Grande.  Notably; beginning in 1934 US Route 101 picked up California State Route 1 at the intersection of Monterey Street/Santa Rosa Street where the two would multiplex to Pismo Beach.  Pictured below is the 1 935 Division of Highways Map of San Luis Obispo County depicting the original alignments of US Route 101 and California State Route 1 in the City of San Luis Obispo.   Part 1; the history of US Route 1 and California State Route 1 in San Luis Obispo San Luis Obispo lies at the bottom of the Cuesta Pass (also known as the Cuesta Grade) which has made it favored corridor of travel for centuries.  Cuesta Pass

Former California State Route 1 over Old Pedro Mountain Road

California State Route 1 in western San Mateo County traverses the Montara Mountain spur of the Santa Cruz Mountains.  In modern times California State Route 1 passes through Montara Mountain via the Tom Lantos Tunnels and the highway is traditionally associated with Devils Slide.  Although Devils Slide carries an infamous legacy due it being prone landslides it pales in comparison to the alignment California State Route 1 carried prior to November 1937 over Old Pedro Mountain Road.   Old Pedro Mountain Road opened to traffic in 1915 and is considered one of the first major asphalted highways in California.  Old Pedro Mountain Road clambers over a grade from Montara towards Pacifica via the 922 foot high Saddle Pass.  Pictured above an overlook of Old Pedro Mountain Road facing southward towards Montara as it appears today.  Pictured below it the same view during June 1937 when it was part of the original alignment of California State Route 1.  Today Old Pedro Mountain sits abandoned a