Farmington — An additional sales tax on junk food bought on the Navajo Nation has received the green light from the tribal council.
On Thursday, the council approved amending the taxation section of tribal law to enact the Healthy Diné Nation Act of 2013, which would impose an additional 2 percent sales tax on junk food, according to a Legislative Branch press release. The vote was 12 in favor and seven opposed.
The tribe's current sales tax rate is 5 percent for any item purchased on tribal lands. The additional 2 percent sales tax will expire at the end of 2018, unless extended by the council.
Junk food is defined as sweetened beverages, like soda and energy drinks, and prepackaged and non-packaged snacks low in nutrients and high in salt, fat and sugar.
Revenue collected from the junk food tax will be deposited into a Community Wellness Development Projects Fund and used by chapters to develop recreational areas such as wellness centers, community parks, basketball courts, swimming pools and walking, running and biking trails.
Delegate Danny Simpson, who sponsored the bill, said the sales tax increase is part of an effort to promote healthy living and to raise awareness about the diabetes epidemic affecting tribal members.
The council also passed legislation to eliminate the 5 percent sales tax for fresh fruits and fresh vegetables purchased on the reservation.
Both bills need approval by Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly and the Navajo Tax Commission for their implementation.