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ALBANY, N.Y. -- Continuing to defy Gov. George Pataki, the State Legislature restored more than $1 billion in aid that the governor proposed cutting, as they made public a multibillion-dollar tax package that relies on increases in the sales tax and in income taxes for the wealthy and added reliance on gambling revenues.
As part of the aid package, the legislature ordered the Pataki administration to start collecting taxes on cigarettes and gasoline sold to non-Indians by Native American retailers, the Buffalo News new reported. Though given the green light by the U.S. Supreme Court to collect the taxes -- which industry groups say could be worth $1 billion a year to the state -- the Pataki administration backed off after a series of violent confrontations with members of the Seneca Nation of Indians over the past few years.
James Calvin, president of the New York Association of Convenience Stores (NYACS) and many upstate New York convenience store chains have worked tirelessly through the years to get the state to start enforcing the Supreme Court's ruling, but to no avail. The association thought the state would act several years ago, but Native American protests -- which led to roads and highways getting shut down, caused Pataki to capitulate. Now Calvin is optimistic that ruling may finally get enforced.
"This is hopeful news for the licensed, law-abiding retailers who have suffered the ill effects of tax evasion for years," Calvin said.
Seneca President Rick Armstrong declined to comment. But Buffalo lawyer Joseph Crangle, who represents Seneca smoke shop owners, said the measure "violates the [Indian] treaties, and they just can't do it."
Many school districts and unions also hailed the added money. But Buffalo school officials said it will not help them avoid mass layoffs and deep cuts in class programs. Pataki accused lawmakers, including his Republican allies, of engaging in "a spending binge" that will lead to record tax increases, the report said.
In a remarkable day that saw tensions further escalate -- mostly between Pataki and Republicans who vow to override his threatened vetoes - the governor derided the budget, which could be approved by Friday, as "a fiscal train wreck."
The budget package also includes a plan to get racetracks to install video lottery terminals and a measure that would allow liquor stores to open on Sundays. More than 15,000 of the machines are planned across the state.