New York Native Americans Consider Deal

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New York Native Americans Consider Deal

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- The Oneida Indian Nation has almost completed a deal with the state that would allow the tribe to collect taxes on cigarettes and gasoline sold to non-Indians and keep it for tribal government services, a tribal attorney said Wednesday.

The state would not receive any tax money under the deal. However, the taxes charged by the Oneidas would be equal to state taxes and would reduce -- although not eliminate -- the tribe's competitive advantages over non-Indian retailers, said tribal tax attorney Eric Facer.

"After 18 months of negotiations, we are very close to wrapping this up with a written agreement. There are no major outstanding substantive issues. It will be before Dec. 1," Facer said.

Beginning Dec. 1, the state is scheduled to begin collecting taxes on cigarettes and gasoline sold to non-Indians on Indian land. The tax will be imposed on wholesalers, who will collect it from retailers. Under the new tax regulations, if a tribe reaches an agreement with the state, it would be exempt from turning over the taxes.

"What we are talking about is hardly a revolutionary idea," Facer said. "There are dozens of other tribes in states across the nation that have reached such agreements."

Gov. George Pataki and the Mohawk Nation reached a similar agreement in May, but that has since been thrown into limbo following the election of new chiefs on the northern New York reservation. The Cayuga Indian Nation of New York made a similar offer in a letter to Pataki last week.

The governor's office did not immediately return phone calls Wednesday seeking comment. The Oneidas operate 12 combination gasoline station-convenience stores and two cigarette shops in Oneida and Madison counties. The tribe also owns Turning Stone Casino, which has reported profits of $30 million annually.