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Navajo Nation Junk Food Tax Vetoed

February 17
23:27 2014

The Healthy Diné Nation Act of 2013, also known as the Junk Food Sales Tax bill, has been vetoed by Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly. At the same time, he  vetoed concurrent legislation eliminating the sales tax on fresh fruits, vegetables, water, nuts, seeds and nut butters. The veto was issued on Wednesday.

In a Memorandum issued on February 12, 2014, Shelly states that while he and Vice President Jim Lee support healthy living and that it is a priority for the administration, the Navajo Nation government is not currently prepared to implement and collect taxes on junk food. He said that the mandate does not identify funds to pay for tax administration. The responsibility would only increase the already underfunded Office of Navajo Tax Commission. Other applications, such as educating retail sales taxpayers, change of forms, reprogramming registers and other things were not considered in the legislation.

Furthermore, due diligent research in the areas of Navajo business and consumers is needed. It is important to consider the implication it would make on our local businesses, especially the small businesses.”–Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly

For that reason, Shelly states, the concurrent legislation that eliminated sales taxes on healthier foods, including fresh fruits and vegetables, was vetoed as well. He said it would hinder tax revenue to chapters, judicial/public safety facilities fund, scholarships and economic development by a significant amount.

“The Navajo Nation is not ready to implement the collection of taxes on junk food. However it is important that we must explore other alternatives, such as education on health issues.”–Ben Shelly

According to the Navajo Area Indian Health Service, there are 25,000 Navajos with diabetes and 75,000 are pre-diabetic. At an average, it costs over $13,000 per person per year to treat diabetes. In 2009, the obesity rate within eight service units of the Navajo Area Indian Health Service ranged from 23% up to 60% for all age groups.

The Navajo Nation Council originally enacted the Healthy Dine Nation Tax to diminish the cost of obesity and diabetes on the Navajo Nation.

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