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Az Navajos get more road projects than NM Navajos
February 4, 2014 Professional Journal

Here at joint meeting of Navajo Council’s Budget & Finance Committee and Resources & Development Committee at the Council chamber in Window Rock, Ariz. Click on B&F and RDC 2-4-14 AGENDA to see what Legislation and Reports will go before B&F and RDC today.

The Committees have started debating on Proposed Amendments to the Navajo Nation Road Fund and Fund Management Plan and its Impacts to the Fuel
Excise Tax, which is being presented by Delegate Dwight Witherspoon and Division of Navajo Tax Commission Director Marty Ashley and Navajo Department of Transportation Director Paulson Chaco,

The proposed amendment are to LEGISLATION NO. 0008-14: An Action Relating to Resources and Development Committee; Amending the Navajo Nation Road Fund Regulations Sponsored by Delegate Dwight Witherspoon.

I missed the opening presentation from Delegate Witherspoon because I had to move from where I had set up my video camera and laptop. I left the Council chamber to look for some documents and when I returned, legislative staff had put down a large screen – right in front of where I had set up and was sitting.

DELEGATE WITHERSPOON
To DELGATE LORENZO CURLEY, pg 3 of 8, line 16, at the end: Navajo Council limited to appropriating 25 percent for administration, road maintenance, road improvements which justifies my amendment to increase percentage.
To DELEGATE DAVID TOM, wants no changes.
Are there more roads in Arizona? I know there are more Navajos in Arizona. And I don’t know about fighting. I’m here fighting for more revenues for roads for my community.

NAVAJO TAX OFFICE DIRECTOR MARTY ASHLEY
I’ll give overview on Fuel Excise Tax. The revenues that go into FET comes from FET, which is paid by fuel distributors and passed onto individuals buying gas. 18 percent tax on gasoline and 25 cent diesel tax on reservation. so tax collected is FET and TAx Office responsible for FET. For 2013, 70 percent from Az, 26 percent from NM, 2 percent Utah is where FET came from. Once FET comes into then 12 percent for Permanent Trust Fund, 2 percent Land Trust Fund, 4 percent Veterans Trust Fund, 2 percent into TAx administration fund so about 20 percent taken off top of FET, which is about $20 million.

PAULSON CHACO
17 percent for administrative costs in NDOT but used for roads. Only portion for admin cost is $300,000. The remaining for preliminary studies and road maintenance. Changes are FET projects and put everything into road maintenance.

DELEGATE LORENZO CURLEY
I support these changes but I see only problem is money for road studies and the lack of knowledge about FET by chapter coordinators. I’m looking at Ray Russell and his shop and wondering how increase of more than $2 million for road studies help communities.

NDOT DEPARTMENT MANAGER RAY RUSSELL
Legislation only addresses $3 million for projects and not 25 percent to administrative costs. There is no increase or decrease to current funding level as explained by Witherspoon.
The only impact is to project site.

PAULSON
Since 2003, historical costs for FET is Az $25 million, NM $23 m., Utah $1.4 m.

DELEGATE LEONARD TSOSIE, RDC MEMBER
If you look at slide, the NM portion of Navajo reservation has one road project. If look at CDBG last year, about $20 m went to Az. And almost 100 percent of electrification funds went to Az. And in the settlement of Peabody lawsuit, we said that most of it would go to Az chapter. We have been generous and that is why I said that NM Navajos are generous. And I know there are more Az Council Delegates than NM Council delegates. And this is where young and old saying let’s be one nation but then there are others that want to flex their muscles. But I’m not going to argue over such a small FET amount. The focus should be reducing or removing set aside for Trust Funds. If we are really serious, and keep our word, then we shud do away with set asides. Let’s get all the delegates here to put up their word. And then $2 million in additional funds to generate a total of $5 m. And FET projects shud be removed. And we shud redo Sales Tax, which go to chapters. This is central government function. When allow all these funds to go to chapter then shortchanging central government. If you have guts, change set asides. And more of set aside go to Az veterans and land acquisition in Az. The bigger fight that we never take on is double taxation. Why don’t we ever go to Congress and tell them to do away with double taxation, which is seen in diesel tax.
I recommend that we do away with Fund Management Plans cuz tribal departments do what they want with it. And NDOT building bad idea. Spent too much of FET on NDOT. And Paulson more protected than Delegates at NDOT building.
Went to chapter planning meeting and most of discussion was roads. How to handle washboard roads. If you can resolve washboard roads, then you shouldn’t be paid. People don’t drive on road, they drive along road.

VOTE TO ACCEPT REPORT FROM DELEGATE WITHERSPPOON

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