Before the 2018 Tzi-Zho Session ended, the Sixth Osage Nation Congress approved three economic development bills totaling $1.1 million to fund the Nation’s three Limited Liability Company entities for their business endeavors and plans.
The three bills passed following several committee discussions and debates on the original requested amounts and after hearing presentations from the respective LLC entities for the Bluestem Ranch, Osage LLC and Osage Nation Energy Services (ONES) LLC.
The reduced amounts also come as the Nation considers several 2019 fiscal year budgets to fund government operations, capital asset projects, cultural donations and direct services, prompting several debates and decisions on reductions and cuts in submitted budgets. Funding from the three bills will come from the Nation’s Economic Development Fund, which is set aside from the General Treasury.
The three economic development bills passing with majority votes on Sept. 27 are:
- ONCA 18-58 (sponsored by Congresswoman Maria Whitehorn) is an appropriation for the Nation’s Bluestem Ranch LLC set at $350,000. This amount is a reduction from the original requested amount of $1.1 million.
Bluestem Ranch Board Chairman Jim Perrier recalled being told the board would receive $9 million for the ranch operations within a three-year window and acknowledged the board has received half of that amount ($4.5 million) at the Sept. 26 meeting and noted the progress of the ranch, which started with little tools and equipment. “We have taken this money, turned it into cattle, we’re going to show a profit this next year” and noted the money would buy more stock “… we’re using it to buy cattle and its assets to the ranch,” Perrier said.
Congresswoman Paula Stabler said “we all want the ranch to continue to succeed and thrive as they have already,” but noted the Congress had big decisions to make for the three entities, prompting compromises in appropriating lower amounts for economic development. She also acknowledged the progress of the newly seated Congress, which reviewed reports and board presentations from the LLC entities in wake of the Baker Tilly accounting firm’s review of the LLCs.
Congressman Joe Tillman said he was against the reduced amount of the ranch appropriation, adding “this is not what I intended for the ranch to have to operate on and I’ll be a ‘no’ vote.”
“When you sit in this seat, you have to make compromises to some extent and I think the health of our ranch, that the business pulse is healthy, we’re at the point where we’re going to try and spur on some type of enterprise business that’s going to have higher returns. Cattle, to me, is a great return, I’m always going to support it, but I’m going to support this amendment,” Whitehorn said of the lowered appropriation for the Bluestem Ranch.
ONCA 18-58 passed with an 8-1 vote with “yes” votes from Congress members Whitehorn, Scott BigHorse, Alice Goodfox, Brandy Lemon, John Maker, Angela Pratt, Stabler and Congressional Speaker RJ Walker. Tillman cast the “no” vote. Congress members Eli Potts, Shannon Edwards and Archie Mason were absent at the time of voting.
- ONCA 18-62 (sponsored by Stabler) is an appropriation to ONES LLC for $600,000. This is a reduction from the original requested amount of $880,000.
Congresswoman Alice Goodfox said she is supportive of the economic development appropriations because “it’s a solution to being successful in our LLCs,” adding she recalled hearing from the voters during the 2018 campaign season that the Nation still needs to diversify its economy and set it up for success.
Tillman said he sees potential on the horizon for economic development, but also expressed disappointment the Nation cannot fund the original requests made by the LLCs.
ONCA 18-62 passed with the same 8-1 vote count.
- ONCA 18-73 (Whitehorn) is a $150,000 appropriation to Osage LLC as a capital contribution.
Congresswoman Brandy Lemon said her first session was full of fun and hard moments, including hard business decisions that must be made by elected officials. Lemon said of the compromises: “We all came together, and it wasn’t easy, and we came together to be able to support all three of the requests … We want to give a fair shot to everyone … that’s what we did.”
Stabler noted she is supporting the LLC appropriation after looking at the operations and noted the prior management officials are no longer there who were in place during the losses. She also said ONES and Osage LLC are at critical moments in need of funds and “we are making the best decisions we can make to move our Nation forward with this economic development.”
Whitehorn said the Congress has reexamined the LLCs with the newer information coming from reports and said she is supporting the new LLC appropriation. “This is our turn right now as a Congress and as a Nation to get (diversifying) economic development right.”
ONCA 18-73 passed with the same 8-1 vote count.