Navajo Council Fails to Implement Junk Food Tax, Eliminates Tax on Healthy Foods


Yesterday, the Navajo Nation Tribal Council voted not to increase taxes by 2 percent on junk food, but agreed to reduce taxes to zero on healthy foods bought in stores on tribal lands. The junk food tax bill is officially known as the Healthy Diné Nation Act.

RELATED: Support the Healthy Diné Nation Act! by Notah Begay III

The council originally approved all provisions of the bill last January, but President Ben Shelly vetoed it on January 30.

RELATED: Shelly Vetoes Navajo Junk Food Tax

Navajo Nation Council Approves Junk Food Tax to Fight Obesity

In Tuesday’s vote to override Shelly’s veto, the council voted 13 for and 7 against on the provision of the bill that would increase taxes by 2 percent on junk foods like soda pop and potato chips. The 2 percent tax would have brought taxes on junk food up to 7 percent. The general Navajo Nation tax is 5 percent on items bought on tribal lands.

Two-thirds of the tribal council, which is made up of 24 members, needed to vote in favor of bill in order for it to pass.

“We needed 16 votes for the 2 percent tax,” Gloria Begay, a community advocate, said.

Begay added that 3 delegates were absent and one abstained.

Begay said that the three Navajo Nation Council Delegates who originally voted in favor of the 2 percent tax on junk foods in January, voted against it on Tuesday. She said that they were Delegates Mel Begay, Roscoe Smith and Walter Phelps.

In the second major provision of the Healthy Diné Navajo Nation Act that eliminates taxes on healthy foods, like fruits, vegetables, nuts and water, the tribal council voted 19 in favor and 1 opposed, according to Begay.

Speaking about the 2 percent junk food tax, Begay said that it was disappointing that delegates turned their votes around.

“We worked really hard for the past two years on this bill,” she said referring to the Diné Community Advocacy Alliance, which is made up of numerous grassroots tribal members who have a mission of returning to traditional healthy foods that maintain and improve health.

Begay added that the fight isn’t over to get the 2 percent tax made into law.

“We will go back again during summer session,” she said adding that Delegate Danny Simpson will once again sponsor the bill to increase taxes on junk food by 2 percent.

“We have our foot in the door with 0 percent taxes won on healthy foods,” she said

On the provision that eliminates taxes altogether on healthy foods, the tribal council voted 19 in favor and 1 opposed.

“I’m so happy that we will be able to keep education about quality foods going on,” Begay said.

This provision of the bill mandates that the Navajo Nation taxes of 5 percent would be reduced to zero on foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts and water.

The two-prong vote came down about 3:00 p.m. on Tuesday after champion golfer Notah Begay III and community advocates conducted a rally and a Zumba class in front of the tribal council chambers in Window Rock.

Begay said that the famed golfer, Notah Begay III, stayed in support of the junk food tax bill up until the tribal council voted even though he knew he would miss a plane he was scheduled to be on.

Notah Begay III has been outspoken in his support of healthy eating and exercise in order to reduce the diabetes epidemic on the Navajo Nation.

According to reports provided by the Diné Community Advocacy Alliance, 45,000 Navajo people have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and another 75,000 have been identified as pre-diabetic.

“Everyone has someone in their family who is suffering from this disease. Now, children are being diagnosed more than, ever,” Gloria Begay said.

Notah Begay III has extended his appreciation to community advocates.

“I continue to be inspired by the grass-roots movement among the Navajo people that led to this important legislation. The Diné Community Advocacy Alliance has worked tiredlessly to provide education about returning to our traditional healthy lifestyles,” Notah Begay III wrote in a recent Albuquerque Journal editorial.

Begay III is the founder of the Notah Begay Foundation which provides golf and mentorship opportunities to hundreds of Native American youth every year.