January 10, 2004
Hon. Sheldon Silver
Albany, NY 12248
Hon. Joseph L. Bruno
909 Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12247
Hon George Pataki
Albany, NY 12224
Dear Speaker Silver, Senator Bruno and Governor Pataki:
In last year's Response to the State of the State Address Upstate Citizens for Equality called upon the Governor, Speaker Silver and Senator Bruno to end the anti-competitive non-enforcement policy implemented by the Governor whereby the State's valid tax laws are not enforced on Indian land. Our legislators heard us and enacted a bill proposed by Senator Nozzolio to compel the Tax Commissioner to collect these taxes. They not only enacted this bill they mustered the necessary votes to override our Governor's veto of it.
It is ironic that our Governor in his State of the State Address stressed the importance and the necessity of Homeland Security while apparently supporting through his inaction an activity that actually harms our national security. In this past year we have seen two members of the Seneca Nation of Indians indicted in a conspiracy to violate the federal Racketeering, Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) by smuggling untaxed cigarettes. At least $2,000 of the proceeds of this criminal enterprise went to the support of Hezbollah. Several individuals were arrested and charged earlier this year with trading in counterfeit cigarettes from China and selling them tax free through retailers on Indian land. One of those charged in this scheme was Scott Snyder a former ruling party chairman of the Seneca Nation of Indians and son of Barry Snyder, Sr., a former President of the Seneca Nation of Indians. Although the acts of these individuals do not implicate the Seneca Nation of Indians, the response from the Nation gives the appearance that this activity is at least tacitly condoned by it. For example in Mr. Snyder's case the non-Indians that were charged with him were expelled from the Nation's lands, however Mr. Snyder will allowed back after he serves his federal prison term. The Seneca Nation is not alone in this quagmire of illegal activity. According to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, as reported through the National Post, the U.S. / Canadian border that passes through the Akwesasne Reservation is "a major smuggling hub for goods illegally transported in and out of Canada from the U.S., or vice-versa --- including narcotics, firearms, alcohol, tobacco and illegal aliens." It further states "According to the study, cigarette smuggling is now financing terrorist activity both in Europe and the Middle East, but there is no connection made between cigarette smuggling at Akwesasne and this particular allegation."
Despite the overwhelming vote of our legislature and the above publicly reported threats our Governor and his appointees are still stalling on the enforcement of these tax laws and increasing the risk that these threats will mature to the point of no return and wasting tax revenue that could be used to promote legal activity and provide necessary services to our State's citizens such as education and Medicaid reform.
So far only Madison and Seneca Counties have had the leadership with the understanding and fortitude to pass formal resolutions calling for the enforcement of these tax laws or for the state to reimburse them for this lost tax revenue. Shortly the "temporary" 1 % sales tax rate increase that have been authorized for most counties over 15 years ago, and repeatedly extended, are about expire again in about 7 months. There is no reason why honest taxpayers should pay for this illegal and unconstitutional policy of non-enforcement.
On behalf of the members of Upstate Citizens for Equality and all citizens of this State we urge you to take steps to begin immediate enforcement of these valid tax laws and use those proceeds to help secure our citizens from the threats of our times while at the same time raising needed revenue for the education of our children and the health needs of our less fortunate.
Scott E. Peterman
Connie and Richard Tallcot
Chair, Cayuga-Seneca Chapter
Daniel T. Warren
Chair, Niagara Frontier Chapter