Last week, legislators cut the salaries of two tribal liaison positions in half, from $160,000 to $80,000. Northern Arapaho liaison Sergio Maldonado has since resigned.
Only two years ago, lawmakers agreed to let the state take over the program, allowing the governor to appoint liaisons to represent the state’s two tribes instead of requiring the tribes to do so. Maldonado said he recognizes that the decision was financial and not personal, but he said the reduced salary will mean part-time pay for full-time work.
“That will be a full time job but at a salary of [$40,000], less taxes, insurance, so you’re probably taking home, I’m going to say, if you’re lucky, maybe 25, maybe 20,” said Maldonado. “I cannot maintain a livelihood on this [Joint Appropriations Committee] reduction.”
Maldonado said budget cuts to education and social programs are likely to hit tribes particularly hard and tribal liaisons will be necessary to help navigate through a tough time.
He added that tribal budgets are also getting tighter.
“Much like the state, because the state has relied on oil and gas for 40, 50 years, so has the tribe. So at a micro level, we are certainly experiencing everything the state is experiencing,” he said.
Maldonado said he wonders if the Northern Arapaho tribe will now consider returning to a former agreement in which the tribe paid for half the cost of the tribal liaison’s wage.
In the meantime, Maldonado said he intends to return to his previous career in academia.