The Navajo Nation posted this press release last week as they brace for massive financial and job losses when the largest coal plant in the western United States closes in December. Global warming policies don’t alter the temperature of the Earth, but they do hurt people, including Native Americans.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – Nez-Lizer outline plan to address declining revenues while maintaining direct services in upcoming fiscal years
WINDOW ROCK – Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer outlined their vision for addressing declining revenues while maintaining direct services for the Navajo people in the upcoming budget process for the Navajo Nation.
President Nez presented a budget message to the members of the 24th Navajo Nation Council’s Budget and Finance Committee on Tuesday.
For the upcoming new fiscal year that begins on Oct. 1, the current revenue projection is approximately $158 million, which is a $14 million decrease from the current fiscal year budget of $172 million. For fiscal year 2021, the Nation’s revenue projection is expected to drop significantly to $132 million due to the closure of the Navajo Generating Station and Kayenta Mine.
In a letter addressed to Speaker Seth Damon of the 24th Navajo Nation Council and Chief Justice of the Navajo Nation JoAnn B. Jayne, President Nez and Vice President Lizer state that the Executive Branch is reviewing the operations of each division and department to identify duplicate services, stagnant federal dollars, wasteful spending, and other cost-saving measures.
Another important aspect of cost-savings will come with reviewing vacant positions within the Executive Branch to determine if personnel expenses can be reduced, while avoiding any layoffs of current employees. President Nez and Vice President Lizer have continuously directed all division directors to reduce the amount of travel for conferences, summits, and meetings that occur off of the Navajo Nation, as seen with this week’s Navajo Nation Housing Summit that is being held in Fort Defiance, Arizona.
“Divisions are directed to access federal dollars while using the balance of federal funds for direct services. In addition, the Navajo Nation is no longer the travel agency for employees having meetings for the sake of travel reimbursements or spending frivolously on far off, unnecessary conferences. Division Directors will have the responsibility of carefully managing their travel budgets to ensure all travel is for the purpose of providing services or enhancing the growth of the Nation,” states the letter.
President Nez and Vice President Lizer are proposing a budget of $167 million for the upcoming 2020 fiscal year, using the $143 million in projected revenue combined with $19 million from the interest income earned off of the Permanent Trust Fund principal, $525,000 from the Permanent Fund Five-Year Contingency Fund, and nearly $4 million from non-recurring funds from the Navajo Generating Station retirement savings.
Recently, the Office of the Controller reported that the Nation currently has an estimated $42 million in the Unreserved, Undesignated Fund Balance (UUFB). The Nez-Lizer Administration is proposing to set-aside $21 million from the UUFB to use in fiscal year 2021 when the Nation is projected to have a significant decrease in revenues.
“This Fund has, for many years, been the go-to fund for all constituent pleasing projects, often disregarding the true needs of the community. Working together, we have the opportunity to change this feeding frenzy and regain the people’s trust and confidence in their elected leadership. We can show what true leadership means by setting aside the unthoughtful, unnecessary appropriations which do little to nothing to put the Nation on a course for economic revival,” stated President Nez in reference to the use of the UUFB.
In a meeting with Speaker Damon held last week, President Nez informed him that the Nez-Lizer Administration would support legislation to use funds from the UUFB for summer youth employment to help Navajo students earn money for school and living expenses during their summer break, and to fund stipends for local chapter officials due to the shortage of funding provided in the current year’s budget.
For fiscal year 2021, the administration proposes to use the projected $132 million in revenues, nearly $11 million from non-recurring fundsfrom the Navajo Generating Station retirement savings, and $21 million from the UUFB for a total budget of over $163 million.
“Facing these financial times, we as the Nation’s leaders cannot continue the grandiose spending habits of old. The response to such spending by the people is the 2010 Initiative and it will be used should the need arise. As expressed here we must find a new way to provide services to the people while being mindful of the fiscal trust the people have given us. I trust the Legislative and Judicial Branches will join the Executive Branch in protecting the finances of the Nation and plan for our children’s future while caring for our elders,” President Nez stated.