Syracuse Post Standard Editorial Page
By Erik Kriss
A judge has tossed out a lawsuit aimed at forcing Gov. George Pataki’s administration to collect taxes on Indian cigarette and gas sales to non-Indians.
State Supreme Court Justice E. Michael Kavanaugh ruled Thursday that the New York Association of Convenience Stores and its two co-plaintiffs, Canastota-based Nice N Easy Grocery Shoppes and M.W.S. Enterprises of East Amherst, had no legal standing to bring the lawsuit.
Non-Indian convenience store owners say they suffer from Indian retailers’ ability to sell their products tax-free. The convenience store association is trying to compel Pataki to enforce a March 1 law requiring the state to collect taxes on the goods.
The association has 30 days from the time it receives formal notice of Kavanaugh’s ruling – and it hadn’t late Thursday afternoon – to file an appeal in its case against Pataki, his tax commissioner and wholesale tobacco distributors.
Democrat Eliot Spitzer takes over the governor’s office from Republican Pataki in 23 days.
Store association President James Calvin said Thursday his group has not decided whether to pursue an appeal.
Pataki has refused to collect the taxes, saying he respects Indian nations’ sovereignty and would prefer to negotiate a settlement to the tax issue.
Spitzer said Thursday he considers tax collection, land claims and the status of Indian-run or Indian-proposed casinos connected for purposes of state negotiations with American Indian tribes.