Navajo Nation lawmakers consider extending junk food tax

Farmington, N.M. • Lawmakers on the Navajo Nation are considering a bill to extend a 2% sales tax on unhealthy food and beverages sold on the reservation.

The bill, sponsored by Delegate Amber Kanazbah Crotty, is making its way through Navajo Nation Council committees, the Daily Times in Farmington reported.

Lawmakers approved the Healthy Dine Nation Act in November 2014 that taxed food with minimal or no nutritional value, widely known as the junk food tax. It expires this year unless lawmakers vote to extend it.

Kanazbah Crotty said the tax has generated more than $7.5 million over the past few years. It is meant to fund things like wellness centers and walking trails in tribal communities in Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.

The bill expands on what would be subject to the tax going forward, including chips, candy, energy drinks and sweetened beverages. It also clarifies the administration and enforcement of the tax.

Public comments posted with the legislation support it. The Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise wants casino buffets to be exempt from the tax.

“It is unrealistic to expect employees to closely watch a buffet patron’s food selections to determine whether each of their specific food choices include ‘unhealthy foods and beverages,’” said Brian Parrish, the enterprise’s interim chief executive.