Council approves $125,000 yearly payout to chapters

Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye has 10 days to approve legislation

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. - The Navajo Nation Council approved a five-year plan for money earned from the Navajo Nation's Permanent Trust Fund that would give $125,000 per year to chapters and fund waterline and economic development projects.

In 1985, the Navajo Nation created the Permanent Trust Fund (PTF) and invested $26 million, which has grown to over $1.6 billion as of Dec. 31, 2015, according to a report provided by the Office of the Controller. The creation of the fund also mandated that no income from the fund could be used for a period of 20 years from the time of its creation.

Legislation sponsor and Council Delegate Seth Damon (Bááháálí, Chichiltah, Manuelito, Tsé Lichíí', Rock Springs, Tsayatoh), said the income generated from the PTF has been available for use since 2005, but the money has been reinvested into the fund instead of being used for projects that would benefit Navajo communities. Damon said the approval of the legislation marks the first time in history that an expenditure plan had been approved that would benefit Navajo communities directly.

"Each year, the Nation sends this money back to Wall Street without seeing tangible benefits for our communities," he said. "With this five-year plan, we can begin putting the funds to use and see the real benefits for our people."

The five year plan does not propose to take money from the principle balance of the PTF - only the annual generated income, Damon emphasized.

During his presentation, Damon showed that the average income gained from stock dividends and bond interest from the PTF from 2007-2015 was approximately $26.7 million on an annual basis.

The plan proposed to use $125 million over the course of five years - $25 million per year - on various water line projects, economic development projects and to provide money to certified chapters across the Navajo Nation.

The first year of the plan would provide $6.25 million to be divided between all certified chapters, $8.25 million for water line projects, $6 million for a c-store and a police sub-station near Twin Arrows Navajo Casino Resort.

The second year would provide $6.25 million to be divided between all certified chapters, $16.75 million for water line projects and $2 million for a shopping center in the community of Nahata Dziil.

Year three would provide $6.25 million to be divided between all certified chapters, $9.55 million for water line projects and $9.2 million for a shopping center in the Ganado community.

Year four would provide $6.25 million to be divided between all certified chapters, $15.25 million for water line projects and $3.5 million for a c-store in Crownpoint, New Mexico.

The final year would provide $6.25 million to be divided between all certified chapters, $15.95 million for water line projects and $2.8 million for a retail store in the Dennehotso community.

Damon explained the plan would provide an average of $125,000 annually to each certified chapter over the five-year period and create 338 new jobs for construction of various shopping centers and c-stores.

After the session, Damon thanked former Navajo Nation Chairman and President Peterson Zah for his role in establishing the PTF and for his longstanding leadership.

"I appreciate Mr. Zah's vision for our Nation in regard to the Permanent Trust Fund and for helping us reach this point," Damon said.

Following the council's action, several members of the council said they hope the Navajo chapters will support the legislation and urge Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye to sign the bill into law. Begaye has 10 days to consider the bill, once the resolution has been sent to the Office of the President and Vice President.

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