After the Navajo Nation Council voted 12-7 on January 30 to approve a 2-percent increase in sales tax for processed foods high in fat, sugar and salt, as well as sweetened drinks sold on the 27,000-square-mile reservation, Tribal President Ben Shelly vetoed the legislation February 12, reported the AP.
The bill, known as the Healthy Diné Nation Act, intended to encourage Navajos to abandon unhealthy processed foods for fresh produce, thus reducing the high rates of obesity and diabetes among tribal members. The revenue collected from the tax hike would have been deposited into a special fund to develop wellness centers, parks, basketball courts, trails, swimming pools, picnic grounds and health education classes.
According to Shelly's advisor Deswood Tome, the Navajo President supports the concept, but thinks the legislation is vague about how the tax would be enforced and regulated.
Ironically, Shelly also vetoed a related bill that would kill the tribe's 5 percent sales tax on nuts, water, seeds, and fresh fruits and vegetables sold on the reservation. The Navajo Nation Council vote on that bill was 17 to 1.
The Tribal Council requires a two-thirds vote of its 24 members to override Shelly's vetoes, the AP reported.