Government , Business

ON Congress passes three-branch budgets for FY 2019

For the 2019 fiscal year, the Sixth Osage Nation Congress passed the government operating budgets before adjourning the 2018 Tzi-Zho Session on Sept. 28. The new fiscal year begins Oct. 1.

According to the approved legislative bills, the Congress passed the Executive Branch’s budget at $75.5 million, the Legislative Branch budget at $2.2 million and the Judicial Branch’s budget at $551,737.

The Executive Branch’s budget (ONCA 18-48 sponsored by Congresswoman and Congressional Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Maria Whitehorn) is $14.1 million higher than the FY 2018 budget for the branch approved for $61.4 million. The Executive Branch budget stretches 127 pages and comprises budgets for respective departments and entities under the branch, as well as the Office of the Chiefs. The budgets include anticipated expenditures that will be made with either tribal funds or outside grants awarded to the Nation for specific departments and approved uses.

The Legislative Branch’s budget (ONCA 18-45 sponsored by Whitehorn) is about $2 million less than FY 2018’s budget at $2.4 million and the legislative budget includes operating expenses for the Congressional Office and the Office of Fiscal Performance and Review and its budget expenses will come from tribal funds.  

For FY 2019, the Congressional budget expenses remain at about $2 million and the OFPR operations is down to $206,000 from about $371,000 last year.

The Congress meets twice regularly each year for the Tzi-Zho Session starting on the Tuesday after Labor Day and the Hun-Kah Session starting the last week of March. The regular sessions stretch 24 days and special sessions (lasting up to 10 days) may be called at any other time by written proclamations issued by the Principal Chief or with the consent of two-thirds of the Congress.

The Judicial Branch budget (ONCA 18-44 sponsored by Whitehorn) is a $551,737 appropriation bill for the Nation’s Judicial Branch operations in FY 2019. The budget includes $66,408 in federal grant funding and $485,329 in tribal funding from the general Treasury.

ONCA 18-44 is a $20,000 overall budget increase from FY 2018’s budget at $531,558 and covers Tribal Court operations expenses for its administrative office, Trial Court and Supreme Court.

At the start of the Tzi-Zho Session on Sept. 4, Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear said the budgets “were developed in a cooperative process between the Congressional Appropriations Committee and the Executive Branch. We have worked with every department within the Executive Branch making the necessary reductions to stay within projected revenue. Our total revenue has increased this year, but so have our projected needs.”

Standing Bear noted three areas of increases in the Executive Branch budget, which includes the budgets for the Nation’s Language Immersion School – Daposka Ahnkodapee, the Wah-Zha-Zhi Early Learning Academy sites, and the culture and language departments.

“We have enormous challenges facing us this year and in the future. This continuous growth to meet our health and education needs must be addressed,” Standing Bear said in his opening session address to the Congress.

At session’s end, Congressional Speaker RJ Walker acknowledged and praised the government officials for working in a cooperative process to consider and pass the legislative budgets before FY 2019 started.

In his legislative report on the Tzi-Zho Session, Walker noted the Congress had 66 Congressional committee meetings (to consider budgets and other legislative items); 44 bills filed and 33 of those were voted on, and 10 resolutions were filed and all received votes.

After the FY 2019 budgets were considered and passed, Walker reported the Congress appropriated $102,849,067.

Walker noted other appropriations passed included $93,500 for cultural donations; $644,551 for the capital asset and improvement fund for various projects; $1.1 million appropriation from the Retained Revenue Fund for the Grayhorse Village Community Building project; $140,000 for arts/ matching grants offered by the Osage Nation Foundation; and $100,000 for a Grayhorse Village lagoon project.

“I just want to say thank you to everyone, I’ve enjoyed myself. I was talking to someone a day or so ago and they asked me how things were going and I said: I think, from my perspective, they’ve gone pretty well … thanks to the staff and the committee chairs – this has been the smoothest budgeting session I’ve been a part of and it wasn’t because of me, it was because of the committee chairs and their work.”

For more information on ON Congressional regular or special sessions, filed legislation and Congressional committee meetings, visit the Legislative Branch website at: www.osagenation-nsn.gov/who-we-are/legislative-branch