nyacs takes to airwaves to protest tobacco treatment

New York convenience store operators are taking to the airwaves to voice their frustration with Governor Eliot Spitzer’s inaction on the tax fairness issue.

A 60-second TV commercial will begin airing in Syracuse, Albany, Buffalo and possibly other markets on July 5, 2007, demanding that Governor Spitzer begin collecting taxes on the vast amounts of cigarettes and motor fuel sold by Native American stores to non-Native American New Yorkers.

The ads are paid for by the New York Association of Convenience Stores, which has waged a 15-year-long battle to compel the State to level the playing field between Indian and non-Indian retailers by exerting its right under a 1994 U.S. Supreme Court ruling to collect such taxes.

Failure by the Pataki and Spitzer administrations to enforce the March 1, 2006 state law mandating collection of these taxes gives Native American retailers a price advantage of as much as $30 per carton of cigarettes, a savings that lures tens of thousands of New York smokers away from tax-collecting convenience stores.

“Governor Spitzer pledged that on Day One, everything would change,” said Jim Calvin, NYACS president. “But on the tax collection issue, nothing has. Respectfully, our members think six months has been long enough to wait for Day One to arrive.”

The TV commercial points out that Governor Spitzer repeatedly said he intended to collect the taxes, and he even included $200 million in new revenue in this year’s state budget from those taxes. Yet the tax-evasion epidemic continues unabated, depriving non-Indian stores of the chance to compete fairly for retail trade.

“NYACS takes no joy in criticizing the Governor in this manner, in fact we are saddened and disappointed,” said Calvin. “As Attorney General, Eliot Spitzer was a champion of tax fairness. As a gubernatorial candidate, he vowed to collect the taxes. As Governor, however, his initial tough talk about enforcement gave way to trying to negotiate a split in tax revenue with the tribes, which has yielded no progress to date. The law is the law. When is it going to be enforced?”

The commercial, which can be viewed at http://www.nyacs.org/TVad7-07.htm, asks viewers to send an email urging Governor Spitzer to start enforcing the tax collection law.

Estimated cost of the three-week ad run on a limited number of stations is $27,000. “Since we don’t operate multimillion-dollar casinos like our Native American competitors, and because so many customers have deserted our stores for tax-free outlets, we lack the resources for a big media campaign,” said Calvin. “But we felt it was important to speak up for hard-working, tax-collecting retailers who continue to suffer the ill effects of state-sanctioned tax evasion.”


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