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Navajo Nation leaders reauthorize sales tax on unhealthy foods, beverages

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — Leaders on the Navajo Nation have reauthorized a 2% sales tax on unhealthy foods and beverages bought from retail stores on tribal land.

Last month, the Navajo Nation Council passed legislation to reauthorize the Healthy Diné Nation Act of 2014. Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez concurred with the decision on Dec. 31.

The Office of the Navajo Tax Commission has been collecting revenue from the sales tax since fiscal year 2015.

Revenue is used to fund community-based projects that center on wellness and promoting healthy living for the Navajo people.

When the act was signed into law in November 2014, it included a sunset clause for Dec. 31, 2020 unless reauthorized by legislation.

"We're going to be utilizing these dollars to address some of the deficiencies – health deficiencies – in our communities," Nez said in remarks at the Dec. 31 signing ceremony in Window Rock, Arizona.

He added the reauthorization has no provision to end the tax.

The legislation, passed on Dec. 23 by the Navajo Nation Council, also clarified language in the act.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez signs the tribal council resolution to reauthorize the Healthy Diné Nation Act of 2014 on Dec. 31, 2020 in Window Rock, Arizona.

Nez, along with Vice President Myron Lizer, acknowledged the work done four years ago to enact the law in a letter to Speaker Seth Damon.

"In 2014, concerned citizens lead an effort to change the habits of their fellow citizens due to the high rate of diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure and heart disease caused by our addiction to unhealthy food and sugary drinks," they wrote.

Delegate Amber Kanazbah Crotty sponsored the bill and has been in support of its purpose, along with members of the Diné Community Advocacy Alliance and the Diné Food Sovereignty Alliance.

Crotty explained to the tribal council that the tax has generated $7.58 million in gross revenue and revenue allocated for wellness projects averaged $13,171 annually for each community, according to a press release from the Office of the Speaker.

In Crotty's remarks during the signing ceremony, she mentioned talk to reauthorize the tax started more than a year ago.

"Because delegates needed to be educated and the people need to continue to be educated about the great programs happening at the community level," she said.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at nsmith@daily-times.com.

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