Begaye takes action on council resolutions

Noel Lyn Smith
Navajo Nation

FARMINGTON — Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye has vetoed legislation that would have provided supplemental funding for all tribal chapters to use for emergency preparedness.

The bill proposed allocating $2 million in supplemental funding from the Unreserved Undesignated Fund Balance for the 110 chapters to respond to residents during adverse weather conditions.

Begaye explained his reasons for the line-item veto in a Friday memorandum to Speaker LoRenzo Bates and the Navajo Nation Council.

His justification centered on the amount of emergency funding the chapters have available and the economic forecast for the tribe.

In Begaye’s memorandum, he wrote that as of Jan. 26, the chapters' emergency fund balance is $3.27 million.

“Chapters have sufficient funds to assist their constituents. The chapters also need to demonstrate they are being more fiscally responsible in the use of funds before the Navajo Nation allocates more dollars into these accounts,” the president wrote.

With the tribe "experiencing a significant" budget shortfall this year due to declining crude oil prices, "all three branches must be more prudent and strategic in the use of the Undesignated Unreserved Fund Budget,” he wrote.

In a separate resolution, Begaye line-item vetoed $854,840 from an approximately $1.8 million supplemental funding request to provide stipends for members of the district grazing committee, major irrigation farm boards and the Eastern Navajo Land Board.

The president line-item vetoed $374,400 that would have been used as mileage payments for 78 district grazing committee members in the Chinle, Fort Defiance, Northern and Western agencies. He used his line-item veto authority on $50,000 that would have paid for supplies for the district grazing committee members.

As for the Eastern Navajo Land Board, Begaye line-item vetoed $16,040 in travel expenses to attend an annual meeting. In addition, he line-item vetoed $5,000 to pay for a conference room and $7,000 for catering and refreshment costs for the meeting.

He also line-item vetoed $96,000 for mileage payments and $50,000 in supplies for the land board.

For the major irrigation farm boards, the president line-item vetoed $206,400 to pay mileage for 43 members and $50,000 for supplies costs.

Begaye explained he was issuing the line-item veto because the supplemental funding focused on travel expenses, conference fees, additional expenses, supplies and mileage, which he wrote were "beyond" funding for stipends.

"These are classified (as) more operational expenses, which are beyond what the resolution approves as its supplement request for 'stipends,'" Begaye wrote in a memorandum on Sunday.

He added that he and Vice President Jonathan Nez are "considering a moratorium" on supplemental funding requests from the UUFB until the tribe knows the impact oil prices will have on the budget.

“In the interim, we all must be more frugal and prudent in our spending, which means less travel and conferences for all the executive branch,” Begaye wrote.

Another resolution the president vetoed would have amended the language in the Navajo Nation Code that authorizes the distribution of any appropriation to the 110 chapters.

The language change was requested to provide a distribution to chapters under the Permanent Trust Fund's proposed five-year plan.

Under the amendment, the council could change the distribution amount by a two-thirds vote.

Current law mandates 50 percent of an appropriation is equally distributed among the chapters. The remaining half is divided based on the number of registered voters within each chapter.

Begaye did approve $300,000 in supplemental funding to finish construction of two modular buildings to house the tribe's Supreme Court and Administrative Office of the Courts. The modular buildings are located east of the Veterans Memorial Park in Window Rock, Ariz.

In June, the Navajo Occupational Safety and Health Administration ordered both offices to vacate the building they were occupying.

The president also signed into law changes to the tribe's Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act of 2012, which amends the process and classification for sex offenders to register on the Navajo Nation.

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