On October 1, the Navajo Nation had its 2013 budget in place to begin its fiscal year. The budget however, was a comprehensive version that included two line item vetoes by Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly along with strong criticism about raises for one branch of the government.
“It is important that we have a budget in place as we begin the new fiscal year. I’m thankful for everyone’s hard work in getting this budget through even though I used my line item veto authority. We have to maintain fiscal responsibility and remember that we work for the Navajo people,” Shelly said in a Nation press release.
The two portions of the budget that Shelly vetoed were in regards to a 2 percent adjustment of the Navajo Nation Permanent Trust Fund, and $1,396,076 supplement to Navajo Area Agency on Aging Program which would come from the Undesignated, Unreserved Fund Balance (UUFB) he wrote in a letter to Johnny Naize, Navajo Council speaker.
Shelly felt the Council did not have the authority to amend the set aside funds that are normally 12 percent.
“Although ‘amending’ tends to be utilized for permanent change in legislation jargon, it is not clear if amending refers to any modification, which would include adjusting the 12 percent or waving the set aside in its entirety. Without an identified source of authority to waive or adjust the established percentage, its expected the Council does not have the authority to reduce the 12 percent contribution established in 12 N.N.C. § 901,” Shelly said.
In reference to the vetoed $1.39 million in funding, Shelly wrote that the “majority of the Conditions of Appropriation are unrealistic.” Citing lack of funding, limited time allotment and participation from the Navajo Nation Council. Another reason he vetoed the funds, was because fiscal requests from the UUFB can’t allow mixing of reoccurring and non-reoccurring expenditures the press release said.
Shelly then called into question unjustified raises submitted on behalf of the legislative district assistants that was proposed by the council, he referred to the criticism the Executive Branch endured from oversight committees and the council about staff salaries being unjustified the release stated.
Shelly brought up the fact the Executive Branch is facing almost 30 lay offs with the new budget and said, “it is disappointing the Legislative Branch advocates such stringent personnel criticism on the Executive and Judicial employees but eagerly gave Legislative district staff an unprecedented raise without proper evaluation and justification.”
After cutting the budget by $5 in August and multiple disagreements, the Navajo Nation was able to pass a budget in time for the fiscal year.