Tobacco retailers says tax is discriminatory

Thursday, November 17th 2005, 5:43 pm
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- Oklahoma tobacco retailers are complaining about the state's new cigarette tax.

A group of retailers appeared Thursday before a legislative committee at the state Capitol.

Mike LaFevers, who owns ten convenience stores in Poteau, says he's being discriminated against because of the tax and a series of compacts that allow different, lower rates for American Indian tribes.

Alan Chapman, president of the Oklahoma Oil Marketers Association, says he favors a plan for Governor Henry to buy out tribal tobacco compacts. The compacts are being blamed for lower-than-projected state cigarette tax revenue.

Mike Thornbrugh, representing Quick-Trip stores, says some tribes have a ten-dollar per carton advantage under the compacts. That's caused sales to plummet in non-tribal stores.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for Governor Brad Henry says the hearing on Oklahoma's new tobacco tax was a one-sided attempt to mislead Oklahoma voters.

Tobacco retailers complain that a series of compacts allow different, lower tax rates for Indian tribes, causing sales to plummet in non-tribal stores.

Henry spokesman Paul Sund says the governor's office wasn't invited to the hearing. Sund says big tobacco companies and their Oklahoma allies would like to see the tax repealed and are using the compact compliance issue as their excuse to begin that campaign.

Sund says discussions are under way with the Osage, Creek and Cherokee tribes to resolve compliance problems.