Shirley uses line item veto for first time

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. - Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley Jr. on Thursday signed Resolution CJN-25-10 into law, exercising presidential line item veto authority for the first time since it was approved more than six months ago.

This saved the Navajo Nation $5,650,000 in spending, which would have tapped the Navajo Nation Department of Justice's Contingency Management Fund.

In his line item veto message to Navajo Nation Council Speaker Lawrence T. Morgan and the Council, President Shirley said the line item veto of four components of the large spending bill was necessary to preserve the fund at a level essential to protect the Nation's interests.

"There really are no monies," President Shirley said after signing the law. "That money from the contingency fund is already obligated. The only resolution I didn't line out is money for the kids in spite of the fact that there is no money."

The Contingency Management Fund is reserved for liabilities and claims owed by the Navajo Nation as determined by the Office of the Attorney General.

President Shirley said the Navajo Nation Department of Justice needs the contingency fund to pay all qualified contingencies, including disallowed costs related to grants, judgments and any other fees entered against the Navajo Nation.

An analysis of the spending legislation by the Navajo Nation Office of Management and Budget (OMB) found that a purported "lack of funding" - as stated in the language of the legislation - "does not constitute an emergency and there is no threat to the sovereignty of the Navajo Nation."

OMB Director Dominic Beyal said that over the past two years the Council has made so many supplemental appropriations from the tribe's Undesignated Unreserved Fund and personnel savings that it has depleted these money sources, resulting in a tribal budget deficit of $22 million.

"The Attorney General did not give permission to reallocate or appropriate funds from this account, which therefore may not comply with requirements that such permission be obtained," Beyal said.

President Shirley stated that failure to maintain sufficient levels in the contingency fund would adversely affect the Nation's unqualified audit regarding its financial statements.

Among the items the President lined out of the law are:

• Spending $3 million for chapter Public Employment Program. According to OMB, as of April 30 chapters had a balance of $38 million in unspent money. This includes $3.1 for public employment, and $948,000 for summer youth employment. The President signed into law $2 million for youth employment programs to Navajo Nation chapters from the Contingency Management Fund, even though the money is already obligated.

• Spending of $150,000 by the Nazlini Chapter for a post office. According the OMB, this construction funding should be part of should be part of the Navajo Nation Capital Plan and Budget coordinated by the Division of Community Development and the Capital Improvement Office in accordance with the Appropriations Act.

• Spending of $2 million for the Navajo Nation Chapter Housing Program. According to the OMB and Division of Community Development, chapters have $1.7 million in unspent funds for housing discretionary spending.

• Spending of $500,000 for the Speaker's office discretionary funds. According to the OMB, the Council gave itself $8.8 million in discretionary funds in Fiscal Year (FY) 2009 and another $3 million in FY 2010.

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