Navajo President Ben Shelly Testifies Before Appropriations Panel
WASHINGTON—On March 27, President Shelly testified before the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee regarding the Navajo Nation’s fiscal 2013 budget priorities including infrastructure development, public safety, and education. President Shelly also discussed the Navajo Nation’s plans to develop a sustainable economy.
In his testimony, President Shelly told lawmakers that projects like the Navajo Agricultural Products Industry (NAPI) fulfill the Nation’s goals of economic development and job creation.
“The NAPI farm is supported by water brought by the Navajo Indian Irrigation Project (NIIP). The federal government promised to fund the NIIP as part of settling water rights in New Mexico. The president’s 2013 budget again reduced funding for the NIIP. This level of funding is unsustainable for operation and new construction. The Navajo Nation asks the committee to restore full funding to bring this long overdue project to a close,” President Shelly said.
Another essential infrastructure project for the Navajo Nation is the Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project. This priority project for the administration will bring much needed water to Navajos and bring thousands of jobs to the Navajo Nation. “We support the president’s budget request and urge the committee to retain that funding level,” President Shelly said.
Health care facility construction projects are also essential for community infrastructure. The Navajo Nation has five priority hospitals due for replacement: Winslow-Dilkon, Kayenta, Pueblo Pintado, the Gallup Indian Medical Center and Bodaway-Gap. These projects will make health care accessible and create jobs in rural communities.
“We applaud the president’s request for IHS funding, but the majority of increases went to funding for staffing joint ventures, not for the long overdue priority hospital projects and for needed water and sanitation funds,” President Shelly said.
In addition to infrastructure, another priority of the Navajo Nation is public safety. The Navajo Nation has fewer officers per person than other comparable rural communities. At times, there is only one law enforcement officer to cover up to 5,000 square miles. “The president’s 2013 budget is also inadequate for facility replacement of jails and employee housing,” President Shelly stated.
The Navajo Nation has also prioritized educational support. The Interior budget for fiscal 2013 eliminated facility and school construction programs. Many Navajo Nation schools are in dire need of replacement. Further, this past fiscal year many students did not receive scholarship funding due to delays in appropriations.
“The Navajo Nation urges Congress to forward fund the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) Higher Education Program as it does for other BIE programs such as K-12 schools and tribal colleges. Additionally, Congress should support a building study to determine the true facility needs for the Diné College and the Navajo Technical College,” President Shelly said.
The Navajo Nation has renewable resources, as well as large reserves of non-renewable resources such as coal, oil, and natural gas. The Navajo Nation supports full funding for development and technical assistance for natural resource development. “Unfortunately, the Navajo Nation faces many regulatory burdens placed on us in our energy development by the EPA’s negative view towards further coal development, a common situation that is unique to Indian communities,” President Shelly added.
“The Navajo Nation is trying to create a sustainable economy that will reduce our dependence on the federal government. We urge support of projects and programs that build infrastructure, create jobs, and clear the path for Indian energy independence and innovation by reducing regulatory burdens,” President Shelly said.