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Challenge to NY reservation cigarette tax in court

BUFFALO — The Seneca Indian Nation is ready to make its case in federal court against New York state’s plans to begin taxing smoke shop cigarette sales to non-Indian customers.

Judge Richard Arcara in Buffalo is scheduled to hear from several witnesses beginning today before deciding whether to continue to block the state from enforcing new tax rules on the western New York tribe and the nearby Cayuga Nation, which joined the legal action. A temporary order is already in place.

Meanwhile, a state appellate court in Rochester is also grappling with the issue. A decision could come anytime on whether the state can impose the $4.35-per-pack tax on any of the nine New York tribes battling to preserve their tax-free cigarette businesses.