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From the Desk of Senator Craig Johnson - October 16, 2009

Hearing on State’s Non-Collection of Indian Cigarette Taxes Set for Oct. 27

The Senate Standing Committee on Investigations & Government Operations will be holding a hearing on the state’s inability to collect taxes from cigarettes sold to Non-native Americans that originate from Indian Reservations Oct. 27 at Manhattan Community College, the committee’s chairman, Senator Craig M. Johnson announced.

The hearing will begin 10:30 a.m. at the college’s Richard Harris Terrace Building, 199 Chambers St., New York.

“The failure to secure this badly needed revenue continues as other states – most recently Florida – have been able to reach tax collection agreements with their local Native American nations,” Senator Johnson (D-Nassau), said. “This committee wants to be helpful in crafting a solution to this problem, but first we – and the public – need to be apprised of where the state and the nations stand.”

According to the state Office of the Budget, the failure to collect this revenue is costing New York $65 million this year.

Years after the courts affirmed a state’s right to collect taxes generated by the sale of cigarettes by Native Americans to non-Native Americans at licensed “smokeshops” and over the Internet, the state Department of Taxation and Finance has been stymied in its tax collection efforts. This non-collection issue persists despite a law passed last year that required these taxes to be collected.

There has also been concern that the current situation has made it easier for criminal activities, such as bootlegging and the sale of counterfeit cigarettes, to flourish. Recently, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York has pursued suspected cigarette smugglers associated with the Poospatuck Tribe. This network’s alleged ringleader, Rodney Morrison is currently facing serious criminal charges in federal court.

The hearing will be live streamed on the Senate’s website, www.nysenate.gov.

 

Powering New York’s Future

Nearly 45,000 Long Island jobs depend on electricity from the New York Power Authority’s low cost power economic development programs.  

However, with nine separate overlapping and conflicting programs that offer low-cost power for economic investment, it is widely acknowledged that these initiatives are not working as effectively as they should. It is imperative that we reform the way these programs work so New Yorkers receive the maximum benefit — more jobs and new careers in our communities — and stronger businesses that stay in New York.  

This year, New York State’s Legislature made the commitment to do just that.

The chairs of the Senate and Assembly Committees on Energy launched the first-ever rigorous, comprehensive review of NYPA’s programs. They are holding a series of public hearings and roundtables across the state with local business leaders, trade groups and the public in order to present their interests, concerns and ideas on how to best use our energy resources to power our future.

Recently, I, along Senator Brian Foley, hosted Senate Energy Chairman Darrel Aubertine for a business roundtable at  Long Island Power Authority headquarters. Joining us were representatives from the Long Island Association, Advanced Energy Research and Technology Center, Renewable Energy Long Island, the Long Island Progressive Coalition, LED Lumina, the Long Island Clean Energy Task Force, among others.

They were clear about the need to revamp and reform NYPA’s energy incentive programs.  And in turn, LIPA discussed some of its existing economic development power programs, and its plans for the future.

Both NYPA and LIPA have programs promoting efficiency, conservation and demand reduction.  Many of the strategies are obvious: better insulation, energy-efficient lighting, heating and cooling. Flat roofs on commercial buildings can be painted white to reflect the sunlight and keep the buildings cooler, reducing air-conditioning energy demands.  

Long Island is a region with very high power costs, and our geography and population density have made  it difficult to build new power plants and transmission lines.  

However, with Brookhaven Laboratory, a research center for new energy technologies, and our universities,s Long Island is also well positioned to lead the way in energy innovation and efficiency initiatives.

The cost of efficiency programs is about one-fifth the cost of electricity generated from new nuclear, coal and natural gas-fired plants. Of course, energy efficiency does not require new power lines and does not pollute.  

On the state level, we have already changed regulations so utility company profits are not tied to how much electricity they sell. This is called “decoupling,” and the bottom line is that utilities can make money when their customers save money.

This step was very important for all New Yorkers, but particularly for Long Islanders.

The next step is to finally bring NYPA’s economic development programs into the 21st Century.

We will use public input, analyze the Power Authority’s performance, and craft a new, long-term economic development program that will attract new industries, strengthen the foundations of our Long Island communities, and provide the higher-wage jobs that truly make this the Empire State.