Navajo Nation President Blocks Tax on Junk Food
The Navajo Nation president has vetoed a proposal to impose an additional tax on chips, cookies and sweetened beverages on the country’s largest reservation, but the legislation could be resurrected later.
President Ben Shelly supports the idea of a junk food tax as a way to combat high rates of diabetes and obesity among tribal members and encourage healthy lifestyles, his adviser Deswood Tome said Wednesday. But Shelly said the legislation isn’t clear on how the tax on snacks high in fat, sugar and salt would be enforced and regulated, according to Tome.
"There are a lot of supporters out there for the tax, and again, the president wants a plan that works," Tome said. "He’s asking the (Tribal) Council to take back this initiative and redo it so that the burden is not on the government to implement a law that is going to create hardship, especially in the collection of taxes."
The Dine Community Advocacy Alliance and tribal lawmakers had been positioning the Navajo Nation to become the leader in Indian Country when it comes to using the tax system to press tribal members to make healthier choices.
School districts across the country have banned junk food from vending machines. Cities and states have used taxes and other financial incentives to encourage healthy choices, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, but not all the efforts have been met with overwhelming support.
The legislation in the Navajo Nation Council did not have a smooth ride either.
Denisa Livingston of the Dine Community Advocacy Alliance said the group worked for two years to get tribal lawmakers to pass the legislation. Dine is the Navajo word for "the people."