Tribal council speaker questions validity of budget vetoes
LoRenzo Bates alleges tribal law was not followed
FARMINGTON — The speaker of the Navajo Nation Council is questioning the validity of five line-item vetoes issued by the tribal president to the budget for fiscal year 2018.
In an Oct. 3 memorandum to the Office of the Controller and to the Office of Management and Budget, Speaker LoRenzo Bates alleges tribal law was not followed when a total of $282,304 was eliminated for the legislative branch.
President Russell Begaye used his line-item veto authority on Sept. 30 to cut amounts that were allocated to the tribal council, the speaker's office, the Office of Legislative Services, the Health, Education and Human Services Committee and the Naa'bik'íyáti' Committee.
Bates wrote in his memorandum that tribal law states when the president exercises veto authority, he or she specifies the reason for the veto in a letter to the speaker.
"This section of the code specifies that the president did not present specific reasons for the listed vetoes, which should be highly considered," Bates wrote.
The speaker also requested that both offices release the amounts to the appropriate accounts.
Begaye signed the comprehensive budget on Sept. 30 for fiscal year 2018, which started Oct. 1, and issued 26 line-item vetoes.
He issued a 10-page memorandum to Bates and the council that lists the items that were line-item vetoed and provided justification for the action. But the document does not list his reasons for removing $282,304 for the legislative branch.
"The justification for president's line-item vetoes is laid out in the budget message that accompanies the signed resolution," said Mihio Manus, the spokesman for Begaye, in an email on Friday in response to questions about the speaker's memorandum.
Bates said in a telephone interview on Friday that he has not received a response from the controller's office or from the Office of Management and Budget.
He added a meeting between his office and the president's office regarding the matter has been scheduled for Thursday.
In the president's veto message, the eliminated amounts are listed for external contractors, consulting and other contractual services by the legislative branch.
Bates said those services mostly relate to council initiatives in terms of research, contract reviews at the state and federal levels, and for lobbying services.
With the state legislative session in New Mexico starting in January, the tribe needs its lobbyists in place by November so they can begin reviewing bills that could impact the tribe, he said.
He added the same response needs to take place in Arizona and Utah.
"It's what you pay these people for, to knock on those doors, advocating day in and day out, (and) making sure the Navajo Nation's position is known and it's fulfilled," Bates said.
Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636.