Measure would restore $8.1 million vetoed by Begaye



FARMINGTON — Lawmakers on the Navajo Nation are being asked to amend the tribe's comprehensive budget for fiscal year 2018.

A bill that proposes restoring $8.1 million to various divisions, departments and services has been making its way through the legislative process since Wednesday.

The $8.1 million became unappropriated after tribal President Russell Begaye used his line-item veto authority to eliminate the funding from the budget on Sept. 30.

The Naa'bik'íyáti' Committee considered the legislation during a regular meeting on Thursday.

During the committee meeting, delegates approved an amendment recommending the elimination of $789,414 from the bill, but the committee also narrowly voted against passing the bill restoring the $8.1 million.

A provision allocating $1.5 million to the Division of Natural Resources for district grazing officials, farm boards and the Eastern Navajo Land Board is included in the allocation.

Begaye stated in his veto message on Sept. 30 that his administration would support measures to provide funding to the three entities from the Unreserved Undesignated Fund Balance. He reiterated support for using the UUFB in an Oct. 25 memorandum to the Budget and Finance Committee.

In his memorandum, Begaye raised concern about the legislation not reflecting an agreement made at an Oct. 12 meeting between members of the tribal leadership.

The president expressed additional concern about transferring the amount for the district grazing officials, farm boards and the Eastern Navajo Land Board from the Permanent Trust Fund to general funds.

Speaker LoRenzo Bates said on Friday the fund income from the Permanent Trust Fund would be used for the three positions. The same method was used in 2017 to help restore funding to the Navajo Area Agency on Aging, and there was no objection by the president, Bates said.

Bates added a meeting with the president to discuss the legislation is scheduled for Sunday.

The council passed the budget for fiscal year 2018 on Sept. 14, and Begaye used his line-item veto authority to eliminate $8.1 million on Sept. 30.

The legislation was not listed on the proposed agenda for a special session on Tuesday in Window Rock, Ariz.

The only bill on the agenda is for the Grand Canyon Escalade Project, a proposal to construct a tramway, elevated walkway and other amenities near the area where the Colorado and Little Colorado rivers meet in northeast Arizona.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636.

Read or Share this story: