According to news sources, the Navajo Nation Council has approved legisla- tion that would impose a 2-percent increase in sales taxes on so-called junk food, which, if approved by Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly, would make it the first Native American-governed territory to do so. The council also passed legislation eliminating a 5-percent sales tax on fresh produce and other healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds.
Known as the Healthy Diné Nation Act and aimed at curbing obesity and its related diseases, the legislation would increase the sales tax from 5 to 7 percent on sugar-sweetened beverages and snacks low in essential nutrients and high in salt, fat and sugar, including chips, candy, cookies, and pastries. According to some estimates, between 55 and 85 percent of the food avail- able in grocery or convenience stores on the Navajo reservation is deemed junk food. The additional tax revenue would reportedly be used to develop wellness centers, parks, basketball courts, trails, and swimming pools.
Opponents, including some Navajo lawmakers, predict that the tax hike would drive residents to purchase items such as soda and potato chips outside the reservation. “We’re certainly going to see dollars leave the Navajo reservation,” a council member said. See The Wall Street Journal, January 31, 2014; IndianCountryTodayMediaNetwork.com, February 1, 2014.