President Jonathan Nez signs $1.25 billion budget for Navajo Nation
WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez signed a $1.25 billion comprehensive budget for fiscal year 2020.
Prior to signing the budget, Nez spoke about the move by officials and personnel to achieve such a budget despite lower revenue due to the closure of the Navajo Generating Station and the Kayenta Mine later this year.
"We had to get creative. We had to do things a little differently," Nez said then explained that included using dollars that were set aside and funding from settlements and leases.
Surrounded by Speaker Seth Damon and Associate Justice Eleanor Shirley, the president authorized the amount in a signing ceremony on Sept. 13, more than two weeks before the start of the new fiscal year on Oct. 1.
Nez noted he did not use his line-item veto authority on the budget, which consists of $163.2 million in general funds and about $1.1 billion in federal, state and private funding.
"One of the charges that we all agreed upon is this, we're not going to have the direct services get diminished and the other was no layoffs," Nez said.
With the reduction in revenue looming beyond fiscal year 2020, the budget includes saving $21 million from the Unreserved Undesignated Fund Balance and placing $10.9 million in the Permanent Fund Contingency for use in fiscal year 2021.
Nez added that, next year, leaders will discuss a new five-year expenditure plan for the Permanent Trust Fund Income with an eye toward using a portion to supplement revenue sources.
Damon said it was important to leaders to make sure dollars went toward direct services to the Navajo people.
"We don't have the best budget that we possibly can have before us, but we have the best budget that we can comprehend today," he said.
As a first-time member of the Budget and Finance Committee, Delegate Amber Kanazbah Crotty said it was interesting to see the work done by the Office of Management and Budget, the Office of the Controller and other programs to fund services for tribal members.
"How do you prioritize that as revenues dwindle down?" Crotty said.
"As we sign this budget, I tease my yáázh here, President Nez, that I'm going to be looking over his shoulder, making sure everything is in the batter because we mixed it all together," she said.
The Navajo Nation Council voted 16-4 in favor of passing the budget on Sept. 3.
Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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