Navajo President Shelly signs law to allocate more money for scholarships and economic development

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. - Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly signed into law on Oct. 31 legislation to bring as much as $8 million to Navajo scholarships and Navajo economic development.

The Navajo Nation Sales Tax Distribution Reform Act of 2012 increases the Navajo sales tax, currently at 4 percent, by 1 percent up to 5 precent and redistributes the tax revenue to include the Office of Navajo Nation Scholarship and Financial Assistance and an economic development fund.

The new tax is scheduled to begin in January 2013.

"If we are going to have a better future, we must invest in our children's education. I know this won't help every student that is in need, but we must keep finding way to serve our students while being less dependent on the federal government. This act is a step in the right direction," Shelly said. "The passage of this act took teamwork from both executive and legislative sides. Together we did this for our children."

Council Delegate Dwight Witherspoon sponsored the legislation.

"I can attend graduations and know we can support more of our students seeking post secondary education to improve the quality of life for them individually, their family and extended family," Witherspoon said.

Money will continue to go toward the Navajo general fund and judicial and public safety facilities. The legislation calls for percentages of revenue generated from the sales tax to be redistributed, but only to accommodate the scholarships and the economic development fund.

According to Shelly, proper plans must be developed before money can be taken from the economic development fund.

"We have to make sure that the projects we invest in are solid and will help the Navajo Nation," Shelly said.

When the legislation was first introduced, President Shelly, Delegate Witherspoon, the scholarship office, and other staff traveled to different chapters and universities to advocate support for the legislation.

Rose Graham, director of the Navajo Scholarship Office, said the revenue generated from the sales tax is welcome because money from outside sources for scholarships has been declining for the past few years.

"It is my hope that we will continue to work closely together to find solutions so that we don't have to turn away thousands when they apply for scholarships," Graham said.

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