Navajo Council debating Legislation 0172-14: An Action Relating to Law and Order; Budget and Finance; Naa’bik’iyati’; and Navajo Nation Council; Requiring a Two-Thirds (2/3) Vote of the Navajo Nation Council’s Full Membership For Any New Navajo Nation Tax, 24 N.N.C. § 142, and Amending 24 N.N.C. §§ 206, 306, 406, 605 (A), 702, 803, 905 of the Navajo Tax Code
DELEGATE DWIGHT WITHERSPOON
i don’t like this legislation 0172-14. my legislation in changing where the revenue went and not tax rate took more than a year and brought more than $3 million to scholarships and infrastructure. DK how much it brought in this year. I don’t agree with essentially making all taxes at same rate. what if the council wants to increase taxes for specific taxes? why tie our hands? it’s always going to be difficult to change taxes. no one likes to pay taxes, which are the largest source of revenue generating funds.
DELEGATE JONATHAN HALE
I signed as co-sponsor to move it forward and now with $554 million and situation of sale of coal and three smoke stacks shut down because of BART, our revenues will decrease which will impact economic development. and so we shouldn’t pull a BIA, meaning more red tape. St. Michaels chapter is on verge of getting certified and this tax amendment would hinder that. recently council approved Navajo Department of Health and scare of ebola. and our people are concerned about taxes. and whether taxes are increasing or decreasing, we shouldn’t tie our hands. we also discussed alcohol tax which is focused on gaming facilities that sell alcohol.
DELEGATE LEONARD PETE
tomorrow is another great day for border towns where Navajo people don’t mind paying 10 percent tax. I want to ask if this legislation is business friendly? If i was a small business person or business, i would look at tax laws.
DELEGATE JONATHAN NEZ
I hope this debate results in allowing local governments to have authority over taxes. The question for Tax Office is how 0172-14 would impact local governments that want to modify taxes. And we need a comprehensive discussion on all our taxes before making this type of an amendment to our tax laws.
DELEGATE DUANE TSINIGINE
this 0172-14 depends on what type of tax and who tax and when we talk about these types of businesses, it will return to people so any tax hike should be left to people through referendum. i’ve been to chapter meetings, Cameron chapter supported and so did Bodaway-Gap because they are communities that were former Bennett Freeze areas. Our elders, farmers, sheepherders are millionaires. it was said that we shud satisfy the millinials and that’s okay but this is about the Navajo people’s money. A simple majority by the Council could be abused and it could be repeatedly. We don’t know how corporate our youth will be. I support 0172-14 because communities feel that taxes could get out of control.
DELEGATE ROLAND TSO
I come from central part of reservation where there is high unemployment. we should create jobs before hiking taxes. my community members also exist on fixed incomes and they have to catch rides. and it’s true, tomorrow is another big day for border towns. i oppose 0172-14.
DELEGATE ELMER BEGAY
At Dilkon, the only economic development is Basha’s, and two other businesses, plus Navajo Tribal Utility Authority.
SPEAKER PRO TEMP BATES
of ten delegates that spoke it’s 3 in favor, 4 opposed. we will hear from sponsor now.
DELEGATE WALTER PHELPS sponsor of 0172-14
thank you for discussion. we all have different perspectives on legislation that comes before council. we all debate and make recommendations. there are questions about certified chapters and i have some in my area. and yes there is high unemployment. we need to grow our own small businesses to provide employment. we have bill in congress, navajo sovereignty empowerment act, which will foster small businesses and job creation for Navajo people living on Hopi Partition Lands and former Bennett Freeze area. this is tax policy. in democratic process, you have republicans and democrats arguing about how to generate revenue and if opposition at national level, this is our tax code.
NAVAJO TAX OFFICE DIRECTOR MARTIN ASHLEY
this 0172-4 will not impact certified chapters to develop own tax ordinances and provision in there to add to national rate, 2 percent to 6 percent.
HERE IS A NAVAJO NATION LEGISLATIVE BRANCH PRESS RELEASE ABOUT 0172-14:
22nd NAVAJO NATION COUNCIL |Office of the Speaker
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 5, 2014
Budget and Finance committee approves proposed amendment to the Navajo Nation tax code
WINDOW ROCK – On Tuesday, the Budget and Finance Committee considered Legislation No. 0172-14, which proposes to amend the Navajo Nation Code Title 24 taxation laws to require a super-majority vote of the Navajo Nation Council for any changes or additions to all Navajo Nation tax rates.
According to the legislation, it proposes the addition of Section 142 to Title 24 to state that, “Any new Navajo Nation tax imposed shall require two-thirds (2/3) vote of the Navajo Nation Council’s full membership.”
Legislation sponsor Council Delegate Walter Phelps (Cameron, Coalmine Canyon, Leupp, Tolani Lake, Tsidi To’ii) said the purpose of the legislation is to ensure that tax increase initiatives receive strong support from Council and that Navajo people are not overburdened with additional taxes.
“The intent is to increase the threshold on any proposed tax increases because there needs to be a demonstration of strong support by the Council on these types of initiatives, and it is to protect businesses on the Navajo Nation and the Diné people,” said Delegate Phelps.
On May 10, the Tolani Lake Chapter passed a resolution in support of Delegate Phelp’s proposed legislation, citing several concerns including previous tax increases, “which was not officially supported by its constituents,” and would not tax large businesses.
The legislation states that the Office of the Navajo Tax Commission collected over $110 million in tax revenue in 2013, which was allocated to the General Fund, Sales Tax Trust Fund, Judicial/Public Safety Facilities Fund, Scholarship Fund, and Economic Development Fund.
In opposition of the legislation, BFC member Council Delegate Danny Simpson (Becenti, Crownpoint, Huerfano, Lake Valley, Nageezi, Nahodishgish, Tse’ii’ahí, Whiterock) indicated a connection between the proposed bill, and a separate legislation entitled the Healthy Diné Nation Act of 2014.
“This [Legislation No. 0172-14] was initiated right after the Healthy Diné Nation Act of 2014 bill was going into the legislative process,” stated Delegate Simpson, following the meeting. “The intent is to stop the Act from passing.”
Delegate Simpson introduced the proposed Healthy Diné Nation Act, which seeks to impose an additional two-percent sales tax on food items that are considered to have minimal to no nutritional value. The bill is currently awaiting consideration by the Law and Order Committee.
BFC vice chair Council Delegate Jonathan Nez (Shonto, Navajo Mountain, Oljato, Ts’ah Bii Kin) also voiced his concern regarding the legislation to amend the Nation’s tax laws.
“Obviously, this is a legislation to block the junk food tax bill,” said Delegate Nez, following the meeting. “The Healthy Diné Nation Act is not just for our generation, but it is for future generations by promoting healthy living through this legislation.”
BFC members voted 2-1 to approve Legislation No. 0172-14. The Navajo Nation Council is the final authority on the legislation.
The legislation was first considered on July 25 by the Law and Order Committee, who referred it to the BFC with a “do pass” recommendation with no amendments.