Navajo Nation rejects Arizona bill that opens the door to separation

Navajo and Hopi people and drastic reduction in funding for direct services

WINDOW ROCKS, Ariz. – Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer wrote letters to the Arizona Senate and Governor Doug Ducey on Monday expressing the Navajo Nation’s opposition to SB 1653 of Arizona set out to seek legislative and governor approval to establish a national “Joint Study Committee on County Boundaries to Investigate and Report on the Tax and Related Impact of a Change in the Apache County-Navajo County Boundary.”

The move would potentially get state lawmakers on their way to creating a new and separate county for the Navajo nation and Hopi tribe without using the property tax revenues that make up most of the funds for county road administration , waste management, emergency management, and administration provide on-call services and many other direct services to Navajo and non-Navajo who live in both counties. Properties held in trust by the federal government are not subject to property tax as they are considered to be federal states. Proponents of the bill argue that creating a new county would give the tribes access to sales tax revenues. However, the sales tax revenue is far less than the property tax revenue Apache County and Navajo County are currently receiving.

“Across the country, at a time when people of color struggle against racial inequality, discrimination and injustice, Arizona state legislation is hastening a bill that would open the door to the separation of the Navajo and Hopi counties, and that would almost eliminate the financial resources required to provide direct services to citizens in Apache County and Navajo Counties. This split initiative has been tried many times and has failed time and again. We don’t need a study committee to tell us that the creation of a new and separate county for tribes would severely affect the direct services and quality of life of all residents and lead to more inequality. We urge all lawmakers and Governor Ducey to do what is right for our Navajo people by opposing SB 1653, ”President Nez said.

SB 1653 has been expedited and amended by Senate committees to provide funding for the Study Committee and is now awaiting scrutiny by the entire Senate. The Navajo Nation is also awaiting a similar bill to be introduced in the House.

“When this law goes into effect, it would fund a study committee that might very well tell us what we already know – that creating a new county specifically for the Navajo and Hopi people will eliminate almost all county funding for direct services. There is a misleading notion that Native Americans don’t pay taxes, but the reality is that tribal nations contribute significantly to the tax revenue for the state of Arizona. Many Navajo people buy goods and services outside of the Navajo Nation, and that creates millions of dollars in revenue for other communities and counties. We urge the elected leaders in the Senate and House of Representatives to do the right thing and stop SB 1653 from moving forward, ”said Vice President Lizer.

The Nez Lizer administration continues to work with state, regional, and other officials to oppose SB 1653.

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