Navajo President Ben Shelly Testifies Before Congress for Vibrant Tribal Economies

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Contact: Jared King
Communications Director
Cell 202-200-0625

For Immediate Release

Navajo President Ben Shelly Testifies Before Congress for Vibrant Tribal Economies

WASHINGTON—On Capitol Hill this morning, Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly testified before Congress to appropriate funds for vibrant self-sustained tribal economies, tribal consultation on the sequestration, and empower infrastructure costs, and tax incentives for private industry development. 

“We all have a job to work on our federal deficit,” the president began in his testimony before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies.

“Any reductions in overall funding must be subject to meaningful tribal consultation before cuts are implemented,” President Shelly said.  “The current method of federal program funding reinforces a perpetual state of poor financial planning for tribes and other local governments.”

Last year Congress imposed a budget sequestration on all federal programs to cut spending anywhere from five to eight percent over the next 10 years.  The anticipated budget sequester is an additional line of adjustments over President Obama’s fiscal 2014 budget due to start on October 1.

“The Navajo Nation wants to be more energy independent,” continued the president in his testimony.  “We have the natural resources, the ability to create jobs, we have the sun and the wind.  We’re tied up with federal red tape.  If you get rid of that we can do more job creation.  Direct funding means jobs on Navajo.”

Congress began hearings on appropriations for fiscal 2014 last month and is expected to last to September.  The federal budget is made up of 12 annual spending bills passed by Congress and signed by the president.  Congress and the president have not approved a set of bills since fiscal 2010, as debates ensue over spending.

During his testimony, President Shelly brought out the lagging of federal trust responsibility in contract support cost for government programs.  “In the recent Ramah vs. Salazar case the Supreme Court ruled that federal government must fully fund contract support costs,” as he asked Congress to make more funding available to reduce burdens on tribes.

The Navajo Nation Washington Office monitors seven of the 12 bills for federal funding for housing, infrastructure, healthcare, transportation, education, among other programs, while offering strategic guidance to the Navajo leadership.

Proposed spending in President Obama’s budget for fiscal 2014 lists the BIA at $2.425 billion, and Indian Health Services at $4.581 billion.

Following President Shelly’s testimony before the House Appropriations Subcommittee was Council Delegate Walter Phelps, who chairs the Navajo-Hopi Land Commission, offering testimony for more funding to continue with rehabilitation for the former Bennett Freeze.

This week the Navajo Nation joined other tribes in the annual Tribal Interior Budget Council with the BIA in Alexandria, Virginia, as they discussed the workings for spending for fiscal 2015.

The president will tour the U.S. Supreme Court later today, and return to Window Rock on Friday.

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