Tribal budget approved, some items vetoed

Noel Lyn Smith
Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye talks with community members on July 20 during a public meeting at the Phil Thomas Performing Arts Center in Shiprock.

FARMINGTON — Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye has approved the tribe’s $620.3 million comprehensive budget for fiscal year 2016.
Before signing off on the budget, Begaye used his line-item veto to eliminate almost $1.5 million in financial carryovers, which is money that was not spent from the last fiscal year’s appropriations.
The carryovers were approved by the Navajo Nation Council during the Sept. 22 special session.
In the president’s Wednesday veto message  to Speaker LoRenzo Bates and the delegates, he stated that he consulted with division personnel before exercising his line-item veto authority.

He added that there was concern about the carryovers being introduced during the special session because delegates did not have time to adequately review the requests.
Among the carryovers stricken from the budget was $215,000, which was the remaining balance, for the legislative district assistants program.
This amount would have been used as seed money to initiate a tribal youth council.
Begaye said he vetoed the carryover because there was no plan of operation for the youth council and there was no detailed budget explaining how the money would be spent.
He also wanted to avoid a duplication of services since the Office of Diné Y.O.U.T.H. is pursuing a similar initiative.
Begaye also vetoed $350,000 for the Department of Water Resources.
That carryover would have been used by the department for repairs to windmills and water wells on the reservation, including those located on Navajo Partitioned Lands.
Begaye made his decision because the department has requested a carryover each of the past two years.
“(T)hese funds have yet to be spent. I will be meeting with the division director to further review this department to ensure funds are fully expended,” he wrote.
The president also vetoed six conditions of appropriation placed on a number of divisions, departments and programs.
Begaye and Vice President Jonathan Nez announced the budget was signed during a visit to the Naa’bik’íyáti’ Committee meeting Wednesday in Window Rock, Ariz., according to a press release from the president’s office.
“The concept behind our approval was based in the One Voice, One Nation agreement. We wanted to maintain that philosophy and we evaluated everything based on that,” Begaye said in the release.
The “One Nation, One Voice” agreement was signed on July 20 by Begaye, Nez, Bates and then-acting Chief Justice Eleanor Shirley.
It established a list of common priorities the leaders plan to address and serves as a guidance for the government.
“The budget we agreed to was the one with amendments made by the Budget and Finance Committee. We did veto several items where we felt we needed to have a voice in where those dollars are going to be placed,” the president said in the release.
According to tribal law, the line-item vetoes for budget items are not subject to override by the council, .
Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636.