State Treasurer Scott Meacham didn’t mince words when talking Tuesday to a group of American Indians about difficulties the state has had with some tribes and tobacco compacts.
The current situation is a “big old mess that we’re still in today,” Meacham told about 100 Indian tribal leaders and members who attended a meeting of the United Indian Nations of Oklahoma. The session was at a northwest Oklahoma City hotel.
Meacham, designated by Gov. Brad Henry to negotiate tribal tobacco compacts, said, “Nobody wants a resolution of this issue more than me.”
The state’s interest is to increase cigarette prices to get people to quit smoking and to earn revenue for health programs, he said.Nontribal retailers must use tobacco stamps that cost $1.03 per pack. Tribes with a tobacco compact pay an 86-cent rate, but there are several lower rates for various exceptions, including the 6-cent stamp for tribes that border Missouri, which has a lower cigarette sales tax than Oklahoma
Nontribal retailers complain the lower tax rate for tribal stores puts them at a competitive disadvantage while tribal retailers argue their stores either are in remote locations or just sell cigarettes compared with most convenience stores at busy intersections that also sell fuel and food items.
“We absolutely don’t want to put anyone out of business,” Meacham said.A single rate would be simpler, he said.“It’s going to take a while to get to a single rate, though, because you have tribes with compacts that don’t expire that are on the Missouri border – they’re not going to want to give up their 6-cent border exception rate,” he said.
- Michael McNutt, Capitol Bureau