Navajo Nation Council approves 2016 budget

Noel Lyn Smith The Daily Times
The Daily Times

FARMINGTON — Members of the Navajo Nation Council approved a comprehensive budget for fiscal year 2016 during a special session Tuesday in Window Rock, Ariz.

Delegates voted 17-5 in favor of the $620.3 million spending package.

The budget includes $172.6 million in tribal revenue and $447.7 million in federal, state and private funding.

It is divided among the three branches of government, with the executive branch receiving $556.9 million, the legislative branch receiving $16.4 million and the judicial branch receiving $15.3 million.

The budget will be submitted to Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye for review.

Prior to the council's vote, which occurred late Tuesday, Delegate Alton Joe Shepherd, who sponsored the bill, asked his colleagues to support its passage.

Shepherd also requested that the delegates read the budget message from Begaye and Vice President Jonathan Nez, which was distributed during the session. In addition, the council watched a video message from Begaye and Nez.

Begaye said he instructed the division directors to address the nine priorities that were outlined in the "One Voice, One Nation" agreement the three branch chiefs signed in July.

The president said when drafting the budget, his office looked at the reversions of external funding, at the number of vacancies, the performance levels of programs and at the departments' plans of operation.

"We are encouraging each division director to really look seriously at the monies that they use, that are allocated and to begin looking at ways to restructure, ways to position people, whether that means merging programs," Begaye said.

He added that 6 percent was held from each division in order to address the shortfall.

Nez reiterated that the budget was developed with the four pillars and nine priorities outlined in the July agreement.

"We respectfully request your support on the budget, and we look forward to working together for the benefit of our Navajo Nation," Nez said.

Following Shepherd's presentation, Delegate Leonard Tsosie said he would not support the budget and requested that the council issue a continuing budget resolution. A continuing resolution would allow discussion to continue in order to develop a balanced 2016 budget, Tsosie said.

Delegate Edmund Yazzie said passing the budget would move the nation forward.

"My advice is that if we want things to move forward, we must, we must respect each other," Yazzie said.

A majority of the special session focused on various budget amendments. The council approved seven amendments which will be attached to the budget and submitted to the president.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 and Follow her @nsmithdt on Twitter.