NCAI and Tribal Leaders Share Concerns About ‘Fiscal Cliff’ in Advance of White House Tribal Nations Summit
As the end of the year looms, so does the outcome of the “Fiscal Cliff” and the impact it will have on the United States, along with Indian country. In preparation for the 2012 White House Tribal Nations Summit, being held tomorrow, December 5, the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) want to make sure those in Washington D.C. are aware of the affect the cliff will have on the 566 federally recognized tribes.
NCAI, along with 65 tribes and tribal organizations, recently sent a jointly signed letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives John Boehner, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, that “outlines the risk of deep sequestration cuts to the already underfunded federal responsibilities to tribal nations,” a NCAI press release stated.
“Tribal nations are part of the American family of governments, and we know everyone in that family must identify budget efficiencies to keep America moving forward. However, the federal responsibility to tribal nations is not driving the deficit. In fact tribal programs, as part of the discretionary budget, have already done their part to reduce the deficit following the recommendations of the Simpson-Bowles commission and enacted through the bipartisan Budget Control Act. Federal responsibilities are already significantly underfunded and the problems we are working hard to confront will only be exacerbated if treaty obligations are treated as line items,” said Jefferson Keel, president of NCAI.
“Tribal programs make up a miniscule part of the federal budget – for example the Indian Health Service is 0.12 percent of federal spending and Bureau of Indian Affairs is 0.07 percent,” Keel continued. “An 8.2 percent across the board cut would mean deep cuts to critical tribal programs and will disproportionately impact already vulnerable Native communities. Tribal leaders are calling on the President, Congress, and leaders throughout the federal government to sustain current investments in critical infrastructure and support. Any deal, either in a short term framework or final bargain should not cut domestic spending, especially trust responsibility programs, any further. Tribal governments also urge Congressional action to advance tribal taxing jurisdiction. Until all tribes retain exclusive taxing jurisdiction within their tribal lands, federal support remains critical to ensure essential government services are delivered to tribal people and the trust responsibility is honored.”
The letter directly showed Senate and House leaders where cuts would be felt in Indian country through the estimated reduction of 8.2 percent that would put many programs below the FY2010 levels, following inflation adjustments.
Some of the examples given in the letter were:
- Native American Job Training, cut by 23 percent
- Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), Tribes, cut by 35 percent
- Vocational Rehabilitation State Grants, Tribes, cut by 25 percent
- Indian Housing Block Grant cut by 21 percent
- Indian Student Education cut by 13 percent
- Tribal Community Oriented Policing Grants cut by 25 percent
- Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), Trust Natural Resources cut by 24 percent
- BIA, Operation of Indian Programs cut by 14 percent
“Health care and public safety are two examples where NCAI and tribal nations fear major progress in recent years could be reversed by deep budget cuts,” the release states.
A cause for concern is also being raised in regards to the 2010 passage of the Tribal Law and Order Act. The TLOA gave power to the tribal nations for public safety in their communities, which saw a decrease in violent crime across four communities information tracked on. Concern stems from the possible cuts to key “programs at the Department of Interior for tribal law enforcement and funding for tribal courts under the Department of Justice will thwart emerging initiatives and significantly reduce critical funding for basic justice services.”
Health care in Indian country would also see a change, the letter pointed out. An area that is already critically underfunded, and could see drastic numbers going without treatment or even care – 83,000 patients potentially not being seen; 127 jobs lost; and 1,000 few diabetes patients without equipment, medicine and monitoring.
As tribal leaders make their way to Washington, D.C. for the fourth annual nation-to-nation meeting hosted by President Obama and his administration, the fiscal cliff could be at the forefront of many discussions throughout the daylong meetings. In a blog posted at whitehouse.gov an expected agenda was released and is as follows:
Opening Session, 9:00am – 10:30am EST
Secretary Ken Salazar, Department of the Interior
Secretary Arne Duncan, Department of Education Deputy
Secretary Neal Wolin, Department of the Treasury
Acting Secretary Rebecca Blank, Department of Commerce
Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Department of Health and Human Services
Secretary Tom Vilsack, Department of Agriculture
Closing Session, 1:30pm – 3:30pm EST
Leaders of Each Tribal Leaders Breakout Session
Secretary Ray LaHood, Department of Transportation
Secretary Hilda Solis, Department of Labor
President Barack Obama