OMB urges haste on 2021 budget process
In light of the looming revenue shortfall caused by the closure of the Navajo Generating Station, the Navajo Nation Office of Management and Budget wants the Navajo Nation Council to start working on the Fiscal 2021 budget sooner rather than later.
OMB representatives suggested to lawmakers during the Budget and Finance Committee meeting last Tuesday to consider acting on budget legislation during the upcoming winter session or quickly thereafter.
“It’d be good to have something developed and presented to Council during the winter session,” said OMB Director Dominic Beyal. “If it were adopted in winter session then the controller would have time to include the overall revenue projection.”
On Dec. 17, Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez had presented to B&F a plan that he, Vice President Myron Lizer and their administration’s Dine Bi Beeso group had developed to help with the shortfall. It relies heavily on the Permanent Trust Fund, created in the 1980s in anticipation of a time when the tribe’s natural resources might run out or lose their value.
“The Permanent Trust Fund plan will set the tone for the 2021 budget,” said Nez during the Dec. 17 meeting. “Also for the budgets for the next five years. We’d like to entertain the proposal before the winter session (of) Council … we need to reevaluate those dollars.”
The Diné Bi Beeso work group is comprised of the Department of Justice, controller’s office, Office of Management and Budget, president’s office, tax commission and the divisions of economic development and community development.
The group has come up with three options to provide most of the income for the general fund budget, said Beyal.
- Option A: Income funds go to the budget and the excess goes to other designated needs and purposes. Branch chiefs and Budget and Finance Committee could make the designations in the annual budget process.
- Option B: Income funds go to the budget and the excess to the Undesignated, Unreserved Fund for general purposes.
- Option C: Income funds go to budget and the excess to the Sihasin Fund for infrastructure and education.
When kicking off the budget season, the controller’s office sends out inquiries to various revenue-handling departments such as minerals, the tax commission, land department, and the Division of Economic Development and determines the revenue projection for the coming fiscal year.
“The very early preliminary general fund revenue projection for the Navajo budget by the Controller for 2021, which was done in March 2019, shows a $26 million reduction due to the closure of NGS and Kayenta Mine, as well as other possible limits in production from Four Corners Generating Station and Navajo Mine,” explained Beyal during the Dec.17 meeting. “The actual scope of these reductions has not yet been determined.”
Budget and Finance Committee member Nathaniel Brown said he felt Nez was overstepping his boundaries by suggesting a budget plan. He said Nez needs to make himself available and work with the delegates on an initiative such as this.
“I know President Nez did approach Budget and Finance,” said Brown. “I want to send a clear message to the executive office: We are the legislators on this side. What I see is he’s trying to legislate. He’s asking us at almost the tail end.”
The committee agreed discussions on the budget and Nez’s proposal should continue at every committee meeting.