SHIPROCK — The Navajo Nation Oil and Gas Company is on its way to securing a mutually beneficial deal with the tribe.

The company, which is owned by the tribe, may finance infrastructure development near the Twin Arrows Navajo Casino — specifically a gas station and a convenience store. If that happens, it would be exempt from paying the tribe's fuel excise tax for at least several years.

The Navajo Nation fuel excise tax, which was established in 1999, imposes a tax of 18 cents per gallon on gasoline distributors or retailers on the Navajo Nation, according to a press release sent Friday from the Navajo Nation Council of the Speaker.

The office could not be reached for comment Friday. It is not clear how much the company pays in fuel excise taxes annually.

The Navajo Nation Council's budget and finance committee voted this week to support the proposed legislation. The council still needs to approve the legislation.

The company would be exempt from paying the tax for seven years after the convenience store and gas station open, unless the tribe reimbursed the company for the infrastructure costs sooner, whichever comes first.

The construction of the gas station and the convenience store are expected to cost about $2.5 million, according to the press release.

The proposed development is part of the company's Rural Development Initiative to construct convenience stores in the communities of Chilchinbeto, Navajo Mountain, Nazlini, Round Rock, Montezuma Creek, Indian Wells, Shonto, Dennehotso, Crownpoint and Twin Arrows.

Legislation co-sponsor council delegate Leonard Tsosie, a member of the budget and finance committee, said the project would promote economic development and provide employment for Navajo people.

"It's something that benefits the whole Navajo Nation," Tsosie said. "It will be good for our people, and for the casino."

Delegate Lorenzo Curley, also a committee member, opposed the legislation, expressing dissatisfaction with the overall financing of the proposed development.

"We're taking away from the fuel excise tax revenue," Curley said. "That's a lot of money we won't be collecting."

Delegate Jonathan Nez, vice chair of the committee, voiced support for the project and advocated for rural communities to benefit from such financing opportunities.

"There are other projects that are going to be built throughout Navajo, and I'm wondering if this creative way of financing could be implemented on those projects," Nez said. "They should be able to take advantage of this financing opportunity as well."

Though delegate Nelson BeGaye expressed skepticism over the exemption of taxes during a time of financial uncertainty, he ultimately voted in favor of the legislation.

The legislation now moves on to the Naabik''y‡t' Committee and then the Navajo Nation Council for final consideration.

 

Jenny Kane can be reached at jkane@daily-times.com; 505-564-4636. Follow her on Twitter @Jenny_Kane.