They may have traveled to Albany to attend a state Senate hearing to listen to testimony about whether the state should collect taxes on goods sold to non-Indians on Native American land, but the side trip Seneca officials took Tuesday to the governor's office may produce more results.
Gubernatorial spokesman Morgan Hook called the negotiations "positive," adding there will be more to follow. He said officials from the state and Seneca Nation are "working on a variety of issues." He said tax-free sales to non-Indians on Native American land are "among the issues."
During last week's budget address, Gov. David Paterson directed the state Taxation and Finance Department to withdraw its advisory opinion regarding forbearance in collecting the tax, stating local businesses are closing and need price parity. Off-reservation stores have to charge taxes Native American businesses do not.
Senecas report collecting a tax for the state would violate treaties the tribe has with the federal government. The issue has brought unrest and protest to Seneca land previously.
This time, state officials said they would like to accomplish price parity through "negotiation and litigation" that could lead to a "price equity system" resulting in a "win-win" situation. Hook said "price equality" was one topic discussed Tuesday.
"Our delegation met with the governor's office on a variety of issues, including the state's long unpaid bill for the Southern Tier Expressway and the NYS Thruway," said Seneca Nation President Barry E. Snyder Sr. "State officials must establish a policy of dealing in good faith with the Seneca Nation before difficult problems can be addressed. Actions, not words, are what matters," he said.
State Senator Craig Johnson, D-Nassau, called for Senate hearings in October to further examine the issue of collecting state sales tax on cigarettes sold to non-Indians on Native American land at which Seneca officials spoke. Witnesses continued the discussion Tuesday, as all did not have a chance to testify in October. Seneca officials traveled to the state Capitol to hear the testimony.
It was the side trip to the governor's office they made that could really address the problem that has plagued the two governments for years, however.
Hook said there is no deadline for the conclusion of talks.