By Ellen Thompson/Havre Daily Newsemail@example.com
The Chippewa Cree tribal council has increased the cigarette tax for packs sold on Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation by 50 cents, half the state's recent increase.
The tax revenue stays within the tribe, and will pay for youth and health programs on the reservation, said Richard Sangrey, chief of staff for the tribal council.
For about a decade, the tribe's cigarette tax had remained at 5 cents, he said.
A pack of Marlboro cigarettes sold at The Village Grocery near Rocky Boy Agency now costs $3.50, including the 55-cent tax, a store employee said today. The same pack purchased in Havre costs $4.41 at Smoker Friendly and $4.56 at Albertsons. Both of those prices include a state tax of $1.70. The state tax rose by $1 on Jan. 1.
In an agreement with the state, the self-governing tribe is allowed to purchase about 18,000 cartons of cigarettes without paying state tax.
Neil Peterson, an administrator at the state Bureau of Revenue, said cigarettes sold on the reservation without state tax can only be sold to enrolled tribal members.
The tribal council voted Jan. 6 to raise the tax, partially in response to the state's increase, tribal council member Jake Parker said today.
"We're looking for any way to bring revenue in," Parker said. "We have a lot of programs we need to support."
The council recently made $2,000 available to purchase warm clothes for students at Rocky Boy schools, Sangrey said. Though that money came from the general fund and was not directly related to the cigarette tax, it is an example of assistance that the tax may fund.
The Fort Belknap Indian Reservation and the state have entered a tax share agreement. Cigarettes sold on that reservation include the state tax, but a percentage of the money is used locally.
Stephen Binder, store manager of Smoker Friendly in Havre, said he has seen a decrease in sales since Jan. 1, when the state's $1 cigarette tax increase took effect. He said people may have stockpiled cigarettes before the law took effect because sales have begun to pick up again recently, though only slightly. Sales were up some before the tax took effect, he said.