A bill to collect state sales tax on cigarettes sold by Indian retailers to non-Indian customers is on Gov. David Paterson’s desk. Paterson must sign this bill, so that the state can start collecting taxes and make clear that the rule of the law must stand in New York.

A bill to collect state sales tax on cigarettes sold by Indian retailers to non-Indian customers is on Gov. David Paterson’s desk.

Paterson must sign this bill, so that the state can start collecting taxes and make clear that the rule of the law must stand in New York. The Assembly delivered the legislation to Paterson on Thursday, beginning a 10-day clock that gives him until Dec. 23 to make a decision.

The bill’s Senate sponsor, Michael F. Nozzolio, R-Seneca Falls, said collecting taxes on these transactions could generate more than $400 million annually in state revenue. This is no small matter at a time when Wall Street’s problems have opened up a gap of billions of dollars in the state’s budget.

Oneida County could potentially stand to gain about $3 million annually in cigarette sales tax revenue from the Oneida Indian Nation if the state were to follow through on its proposal, officials project. In a region where rising taxes are an ever-present concern, new revenue sources are needed more than ever.

The need for Paterson to sign this bill is reflected by what recently happened in Cayuga County. In late November, Seneca and Cayuga counties seized 17,600 cartons of cigarettes from stores owned by the Cayuga Indian Nation.

Some Oneida County officials are now calling for our county to take the same type of action against the Oneida Indian Nation enterprises. But that would make this a local law-enforcement issue, rather than the state-level issue it really is. Consistent and effective enforcement of sales-tax collection can only come from Albany.

Similar bills have been passed but not enforced by previous administrations.

Now it’s up to Paterson to do what his predecessors have not — pass this law and enforce it.

Observer-Dispatch