Congress to consider $1.5 million bill to fund market salary increases

The Osage Nation’s two-year-old merit-based employment system is back in the spotlight after an ON Congressional committee voted to table a $1.5 million bill earlier this week, which would fund increases in employee base salaries citing concerns with the Nation’s revenue status.

During a Sept. 25 Congressional Appropriations Committee meeting, the committee members considered ONCA 13-86 – an appropriation bill to fund the 2014 fiscal year Merit Market Survey that recommends increases to select ON employee base salaries as a result of a job market survey conducted by the ON Human Resources Department. The market survey was conducted to determine if all employee positions are being paid adequately to remain competitive with other regional employers. Those positions found to be underfunded would be brought up to market based on the survey, therefore getting increases in base pay with the $1.5 million funding those increases in salaries, benefits and indirect costs.

The timing of the bill’s consideration did not sit well with the committee during this budget session where the Congress is cutting back on spending in other budget areas such as employee travel, equipment purchases and rentals and supplies. The Executive Branch has also proposed its own cuts including eliminating some new proposed employee positions or unoccupied existing positions. The Congress is expected to vote on the budgets for all government entities and branches by Sept. 30 – the final day of the Tzi-Zho Session and end of the Nation’s 2013 fiscal year.

During the Sept. 25 committee meeting, some members expressed concern about the Nation's revenue status and that more information is needed before recommending that the bill be approved by the entire Congress. After discussion, the four committee members present voted to table ONCA 13-85 to a subsequent session. The current appropriation committee members are Congress members John Jech (chairman),Maria Whitehorn, Archie Mason and William "Kugee" Supernaw. Congressman John Maker is also on the committee, but was absent from the meeting.

The following day, the Congress and Osage News were informed that government employees planned to attend the Sept. 26 session after learning the bill was tabled with a total of three attending. Before the day's session adjourned, the Congressional body was notified by Congressman Geoffrey Standing Bear (sponsor of ONCA 13-86) that a discharge petition for ONCA 13-86 is available for Congress members' consideration and signature. A total of eight signatures are required to pull ONCA 13-86 from the committee table and send it directly for a floor vote and debate by all members.

The bill’s discharge petition could be addressed as early as Sept. 27 pending an adequate number of signatures. Sept. 30 is the final day of the Tzi-Zho Session.

According to ONCA 13-86, the bill requests a total of $1.5 million with $1.1 million to fund the salary increases and the remaining $389,000 to pay indirect costs and benefits and payroll taxes associated with the salary increases. Check back to for updates on the Congressional and budget actions when available.