Seneca Nation of Indians President Maurice A. John Sr. thinks a bill recently passed by the state Senate that would provide for tax collections on reservation sales to non-Indians is ''certainly veto-worthy.''
Whether Gov. David Paterson will veto the bill, passed in June by the state Assembly and last week by the state Senate, however, is uncertain. Gubernatorial Spokesman Morgan Hook said the bill has not yet been delivered to the governor's desk. It has 45 days to be delivered from the time it is passed. The governor then has 10 days for review. If no action is taken by him to sign the bill into law or veto it, the bill becomes law. Hook said, however, some bills do not get delivered in a timely manner. If the bill is not delivered by January, and the governor waits 30 days without action, the bill is automatically vetoed.
Hook said it is gubernatorial policy not to comment on what is expected of the governor within the time frames for a number of reasons, including stopping discussion on a bill that may be being sought if parties involved know a decision has been made before review occurs. Hook did say a press release will be issued once the governor decides what action to take on the matter.
The bill would make it illegal for tobacco manufacturers to sell cigarettes to any wholesalers who do not agree to stop selling tax-free cigarettes to Indian retailers.
''The Seneca Nation has one of the largest private-sector economies of any Native American tribe in North America,'' President John said in reaction to the senate's Friday passage of the bill.
He said the Nation will pursue all legal remedies to enforce federal treaty rights to sovereignty, which the Nation alleges are violated by state tax collection attempts.
''We will always act to protect the Seneca people's rights because our treaties are the supreme law of the land, and this bill violates our right to free commerce,'' he said.
''Further, legislation that would adversely impact the Western New York economy by damaging a $200 million Seneca retailing sector, while violating treaties between the United States and the Nation, is certainly veto worthy,'' said John.
''The state Legislature should not try to help close its budget gap by denying the right of purchase to the Seneca Nation and its licensed retailers or by jeopardizing the jobs and livelihoods of more than 1,000 Seneca and non-Seneca families involved in our retail economy,'' he said.
''We understand the demands on state legislators seeking re-election this year, but we would not that the strong majority of Western New York voters and consumers elsewhere as well have long supported the Nation's right to commerce and right to sell tax-immune products, while they enjoy their own freedom to shop where they choose,'' he said.