Seventh ON Congress passes FY 2021 government budgets

The Osage Nation government is now operating under its 2021 fiscal year after the Seventh ON Congress approved the respective three-branch budgets and affiliated budgets during the Tzi-Zho Session.

During the regular fall session, which stretched across most of September, the 12-member Congress approved the separate budget bills after each was initially considered during several Congressional committee meetings. Congresswoman Jodie Revard, who is the current chairperson of the Congressional Appropriations Committee, is the sponsor of all FY 2021 appropriation/ budget bills.

The following FY 2021 budgets received approval by majority or unanimous votes from the Congress:

- ONCA 20-72 (Revard) is the FY 2021 appropriation bill for the three Osage village committees for the Grayhorse and Hominy districts set at $144,800.

For FY 2021, the Grayhorse Village Committee Fund is receiving $47,400 and the Hominy Village Committee Fund is receiving $97,400 in tribal funding from the Nation’s Treasury. The Pawhuska Village Committee will receive its FY 2021 funding from lease revenue it receives from Osage Casinos, which has its Pawhuska casino built on the southeast corner of the village property. ONCA 20-72 passed with an 11-0 vote and one absence from Congressman John Maker on Sept. 29.

- ONCA 20-73 (Revard) is a $716,547 appropriation bill for the Osage Minerals Council operations. According to the budget bill, ONCA 20-73 covers the OMC’s occupancy and indirect costs, as well as $500,000 in professional fees for potential litigation matters. ONCA 20-73 passed with a 12-0 vote on Sept. 30.

- ONCA 20-74 (Revard) is a $455,814 appropriation for the Judicial Branch. According to the budget bill, the appropriation covers $164,000 salaries/ wages for the Tribal Courthouse staff, occupancy and indirect costs and about $153,000 in professional fees. ONCA 20-74 passed with an 11-0 vote on Sept. 29 with one absence from Maker.

- ONCA 20-75 (Revard) is a $2 million appropriation bill for the Congressional Office/ Legislative Branch. According to the bill, the FY 2021 budget is $145,000 less than the FY 2020 budget. The budget includes $1 million for salaries/ wages for the 12 Congress members and respective office staff, a 78% decrease in the travel budget line and nearly 60% decreases for conferences/ special events and rental/ equipment maintenance. ONCA 20-75 passed with an 11-0 vote on Sept. 29 with one absence from Maker.

- ONCA 20-76 (Revard) is the FY 2021 budget for the Executive Branch operations set at $45.4 million and $5 million in restricted revenue reserved for the Wah-Zha-Zhe Health Center. The Executive Branch budget covers various entities, programs and departments including the Office of the Chiefs, boards and commissions, health/ social service departments, culture and education departments, cultural donations and funds for the Nation’s higher education scholarships and health benefit programs.

For FY 2021, the Nation’s Higher Education Scholarship Fund is receiving a $7.7 million replenishment with $280,000 set aside for third party administrative costs. For the Nation’s Health Benefit Fund, the Congress appropriated a $10.1 million replenishment for the health benefit programs available to all enrolled Osages and $990,000 is set aside for third-party administrative costs.

According to budget overview information, the FY 2021 set at $45.4 million is a $2.8 million decrease (5.98%) from FY 2020’s budget set at $48.3 million. ONCA 20-76 includes $10.3 million for employee salaries, which is an 11.8% decrease from FY 2020’s amount set at $11.6 million. The travel budget line is set at $283,815, which is a 52% decrease from 2020’s amount set at $592,884. The budget’s professional fees has a $2.1 million increase set at $4.4 million for FY 2021 and the operations expense budget line is set at $1.2 million, which is a 36.34% increase from FY 2020.

ONCA 20-76 passed with a 9-3 vote with “no” votes from Congress members Eli Potts, Joe Tillman and Maker. Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear later signed all appropriation bills into law as the FY 2021 fiscal year started on Oct. 1.