Published on Feb 08, 2013
Indian Country Releases Comprehensive Recommendations
for Federal Government to Meet Trust Responsibility
Washington, DC - American Indian and Alaska Native tribal governments and communities are bracing to be hit hard by the looming budget sequestration set to take place on March 1, 2013. Jefferson Keel, President of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) outlined the critical situation in letters to leading members of Congress this week. In the letters, NCAI outlined how an annual 5 percent across the board sequestration would lead to devastating impacts to health care systems, law enforcement, education, and other essential governmental services for tribal governments and communities. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) estimates the effective percentage reduction will be approximately 9 percent for non-defense programs because the reduction will be implemented over the remaining seven months of the fiscal year.
The letters from the NCAI President come the week before the annual State of Indian Nations Address to be delivered by Keel from Washington, DC on February 14, 2013.
Letters sent to Chairwoman Maria Cantwell (WA) and Vice Chairman John Barrasso (WY) of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs (SCIA) included the release of the annual Indian Country Budget Request publication. Letters were also sent to Representatives Tom Cole (OK) and Betty McCollum (MN), Co-Chairs of the House Native American Caucus, and Chairman Don Young (AK) and Ranking Member Colleen Hanabusa (HI) of the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Indian and Alaska Native Affairs.
This year’s publication, Fiscal Year 2014 Indian Country Budget Request: Supporting Tribal Economic Security and Prosperity, was authored by NCAI in collaboration with tribal governments and 30 national and regional tribal organizations. The organization also plans to release the comprehensive recommendations to every member of Congress. In letters to each member, NCAI is calling on Congress to step forward and work with tribes to support economic security and prosperity for American Indian and Alaska Native people.
In the letter, Keel called on Congress to take immediate action to stop any cuts in the Indian Country budget and urged the federal government not to compromise the federal trust responsibility in any budget deal or sequester replacement:
“Congress will consider ways to address the debt ceiling, the remaining FY 2013 spending bills, sequestration, and the FY 2014 budget, and NCAI urges you to protect Indian program funding while Congress looks for more deficit reduction.
We also urge Congress to not include further cuts to non-defense discretionary programs overall. The approach to deficit reduction has so far been unbalanced. Discretionary programs have contributed $1.5 trillion in spending cuts from the Fiscal Year 2011 Continuing Resolution, the bipartisan Budget Control Act, and the bipartisan American Taxpayer Relief Act, while revenues have contributed just $600 billion. Additional cuts in discretionary programs would put the health, education, safety, and security of all Americans at risk.”
Already working to recover from decades of unmet investment requirements and facing persistent shortfalls, the Indian Country Budget Request highlights funding required to uphold the federal government’s responsibility to tribal nations.
Tribes would experience unsustainable cuts under the proposed sequestration. In the letters , NCAI specifically called for the budget of the Indian Health Service (IHS) to be exempt from any sequestration reductions or at least limited to the 2 percent sequester reduction limit.
IHS provides a wide range of clinical, public health and community services and serves 2.1 million American Indians and Alaska Natives through over 650 hospitals, clinics, and health stations on or near Indian reservations. IHS employs approximately 15,700 people. According to new estimates by the OMB indicates that the IHS and tribal hospitals and clinics would be forced to provide 3,000 fewer inpatient admissions and 804,000 fewer outpatient visits.
Called a “a quiet crisis” in a 2003 report by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, funding of the federal trust responsibility for essential tribal government services has been impacted in recent years by efforts to reduce the deficit enacted through the bipartisan Budget Control Act. The authority to fund tribal programs that fulfill the trust responsibility is founded in the Constitution, specifically the Indian Commerce Clause, the Treaty Clause and the Property Clause.
In concluding the letter, Keel stated:
“Tribal programs, as part of the discretionary budget, have already done their part to reduce the deficit through the bipartisan Budget Control Act. Continued cuts will have severe consequences for every tribal citizen. Tribes urge the President and Congress to uphold the solemn promises of the trust responsibility throughout the federal budget in FY 2013 and future years. Further deficit reduction – including cancellation of sequestration through 2021 – must include additional revenues and non-defense discretionary funding should not be cut further. The 2013 sequestration should not be replaced with lowered discretionary caps. In 2013 and beyond, sequestration cuts should be replaced with balanced deficit reduction, including revenues. As the nation continues to debate the appropriate role and size of the federal government and how best to foster a stronger American economy, Indian Country remains committed to the work of rebuilding and shoring up tribal societies, bolstered with the tools of self-determination and self-government.”
About the Publication:
Fiscal Year 2014 Indian Country Budget Request: Supporting tribal economic security and prosperity.
The following organizations contributed to the publication Fiscal Year 2014 Indian Country Budget Request: Supporting Tribal Economic Security and Prosperity
- American Indian Higher Education Consortium
- Bureau of Indian Affairs Self-Governance Advisory Committee
- Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission
- Council of Energy Resource Tribes
- Environmental Protection Agency National Tribal Operations Committee
- Exchange Network Tribal Governance Group
- Indian Health Service Tribal Self-Governance Advisory Committee
- Intertribal Agriculture Council
- Intertribal Timber Council
- National American Indian Court Judges Association
- National American Indian Housing Council
- National Association of Indian Legal Services
- National Association of Tribal Historic Preservation Officers
- National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development
- National Council of Urban Indian Health
- National Indian Child Welfare Association
- National Indian Health Service Tribal Budget Formulation Workgroup
- National Indian Education Association
- National Indian Health Board
- National Tribal Contract Support Costs Coalition
- National Tribal Environmental Council
- National Wildlife Federation Tribal Lands Conservation Program
- Native American Contractors Association
- Native Community Development Financial Institutions Network
- Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission
- Our Natural Resources
- Tribal Education Departments National Assembly
- Tribal Interior Budget Council
- Tribal Law & Policy Institute