Navajo Nation President Begaye and Vice President Nez Continue to Practice Line-Item Veto

Navajo Nation Vice President Jonathan Nez (l) and President Russell Begaye (r)

Navajo Nation Vice President Jonathan Nez (l) and President Russell Begaye (r)

Published December 29, 2015

WINDOW ROCK — On Wednesday, Dec. 30, the Navajo Nation Council will hold a special session with the intent to override the Navajo Nation President’s line-item veto authority granted through referendum by the Navajo people. The legislation is sponsored by Honorable Alton Joe Shepherd.

This legislation was previously vetoed by President Begaye on Nov. 12 as it attempts to amend the President’s line-item veto authority.

On December 15, 2009, the Navajo People voted on an initiative that would empower the Navajo Nation President with line-item veto authority. The text of the initiative is as follows:

“The President of the Navajo Nation will be authorized to exercise line item veto authority over budget items contained in the annual Navajo Nation Comprehensive Budget or supplemental appropriation approved by the Navajo Nation Council. Budget line items vetoed by the President of the Navajo Nation will not be subject to Navajo Nation Council override…..If approved, this initiative may be repealed or amended by the initiative process only.”

In 2009, the intent of the line-item veto initiative was to protect the government from wasteful spending and ensure governmental fiscal efficiency and responsibility.  Nowhere in the language approved by the Navajo people does the initiative state that the president’s line-item veto authority is limited to numeric dollar amounts.

As such, the line-item veto authority encompasses all aspects of the budget and not just the immediate appropriations, but also those budget items with a future impact, such as conditions of appropriations (COA).

President Begaye has stated that COAs can be manipulated to earmark or direct the Executive Branch to appropriate funds without placing numerical figures to them.

“In one instance, percentages were used in an ambiguous way to appropriate dollars to a COA.  Without the line-item veto, this spending percentage for a certain project would have remained.  For us to exhibit fiduciary responsibility based on the voice of the people, the President’s line-item veto authority helps us to exercise more financially sound and responsible spending.”

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