Begaye signs fiscal year 2018 budget for tribe

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times
Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye signed the tribe's comprehensive budget for fiscal year 2018 on Sept. 30 at Twin Arrows Casino Resort near Flagstaff, Ariz.

FARMINGTON — Citing the need to continue funding programs that directly serve tribal members, Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye issued 26 line-item vetoes to the $622.1 million budget for fiscal year 2018.

Begaye signed the comprehensive budget on Sept. 30 while on travel at the Twin Arrows Casino Resort near Flagstaff, Ariz., his office confirmed Monday.

The president dismissed approximately $4.3 million in appropriations for items listed under the Division of Natural Resources, the Department of Diné Education, the Division of Economic Development, the Office of Navajo Public Defender and the Navajo-Hopi Land Commission Office.

Additional cuts were made to the Navajo Nation Council, the Office of the Speaker, the Office of Legislative Services, the legislative district assistants program, the Naa'bik'íyáti' Committee and the Health, Education and Human Services Committee.

Begaye also line-item vetoed the $5.5 million appropriation for the 110 chapters to use for housing renovation projects and a $764,368 appropriation for Naschitti Chapter to utilize for residents affected by the 2014 Assayii Lake Fire.

In the president's veto message, which was released by his office on Sunday, he wrote his reasons for rejecting the funding to Naschitti Chapter.

He wrote that the tribe's emergency management reported some structures in the area affected by the fire are no longer used while other structures are used only in the summer.

Begaye wrote that his office "will need time to conduct its own assessment and conclusion based on existing facts for these homes."

Also eliminated was approximately $3.8 million in capital outlay match funds and $148,325 for the Phoenix Indian Center in Phoenix.

Several of the appropriations that were vetoed had been amendments approved by the tribal council during the three-day special session last month.

A press release from the president's office stated that fiscal responsibility and protection of the Navajo people's money were guiding principles throughout Begaye's review of the budget.

"Every year as we formulate the budget, I've urged our division directors to prioritize the needs of the people and the Navajo Nation government in moving their budgets forward," Begaye said in the release.

"We must maintain and preserve the budget that was submitted by the executive branch as it was based on the needs advocated by the division directors," he said.

The new fiscal year started on Sunday.

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