Statement By Darren Dopp, Communications Director For The Department Of Law,

"We are very surprised by Tax Commissioner Eristoff's statement that he does not want to "implement" the new cigarette tax law which goes into effect on March 1.

That law creates a level playing field between on-reservation and off-reservation retailers, by prohibiting licensed tax stamping agents from selling unstamped cigarettes to Indian tribes. At the same time, however, the new law requires the Tax Department to provide limited quantities of tax exemption coupons to the tribes, which cover cigarettes consumed by members of the tribe.

The law goes into effect automatically even if the Tax Department does nothing, and starting March 1 the stamping agents will be required by law to send stamped cigarettes to the tribes. It therefore makes no sense for the Tax Department to refuse to issue the exemption coupons, because that simply hurts the tribes. No one is asking the Tax Department to commence enforcement actions -- on or off the reservation -- at this time. Instead, they should simply obey the law and issue the exemption coupons."