Farmington — In an effort to save money, Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly used his veto power to eliminate millions of dollars in spending from the tribe's $587.4 million fiscal year 2014 budget.
Shelly line-item vetoed a number of appropriation requests that the Navajo Nation Council approved by using money in the Unreserved Undesignated Fund Balance and the Personnel Savings Fund.
"The president always wants to save in case we'll need it later," said Erny Zah, Shelly's spokesman.
Zah added that with uncertainty continuing at the federal level the president wants to maintain a balance in the fund that the tribe can tap into if necessary.
If Shelly approved all the supplemental requests made by the council, it would have left a little more than $100 in the fund.
Under tribal law, the council cannot override the president's line-item veto.
Shelly explained his reasons for using his veto authority in a Sept. 27 memorandum to Speaker Johnny Naize and to the council.
By far, Shelly's biggest concern was that the supplemental requests did not follow the policies and laws established under the tribe's Appropriations Act.
"It is important the budget supplement request complies with the Navajo Nation Appropriations Act, all policies and procedures created by the (fiscal year) 2014 Budget Instructions and Policies Manual and other pertinent Navajo laws," Shelly wrote.
During the budget session held in early September, the council approved nearly $8 million in supplemental requests from the fund but Shelly line-item vetoed more than $7.7 million of them in order to keep money in the fund.
He line-item vetoed $3 million in appropriations for waterlines, power lines and housing in the former Bennett Freeze Area and Navajo Partitioned Land in Arizona.
"The current land status of the freeze area is unclear," Shelly wrote. "Until the land status is assured to be under Navajo jurisdiction, the funds will remain unspent."
He line-item vetoed $500,000 for mileage and fuel costs for vehicles used by law enforcement, first responders, senior citizens centers and community health representatives as well as $3 million to fund the Public Employment Program at the 110 chapters.
Shelly also line-item vetoed a little more than $1.2 million for chapter house repairs and renovations in Chichiltah, N.M.; Chilchinbeto, Lupton, and Teec Nos Pos, Ariz.; and Oljato, Utah.
In addition to tapping into the Unreserved Undesignated Fund, the council also appropriated a little more than $6.3 million from the Personnel Savings Fund. Shelly line-item vetoed nearly $1 million of those appropriations.
Once again, the president said those supplemental requests violated the Appropriations Act because some budget forms were signed by delegates rather than department officials.
Among the requests that received the line-item veto were $83,100 for the Gallup Diné Health Advisory Board, which is advocating for a new Gallup Indian Medical Center facility, and $80,000 to assist the eight fairs that operate on the Navajo Nation.
Shelly also line-item vetoed spending $609,729 of the Permanent Trust Fund set aside to create six unclassified job positions as well as paying for vehicle rentals, building space and personal travel.
"Funding unclassified positions is an irresponsible act," he wrote.