Government

Osage Congress still considering FY 2020 budgets as Tzi-Zho Session nears end

With the Tzi-Zho Session scheduled to end Sept. 30, the Sixth Osage Nation Congress is still meeting with the government branches and entities whose 2020 fiscal year budgets have yet to be approved.

As of Sept. 26, the Congress had yet to approve the Judicial and Executive Branch budgets, as well as those for other government entities. Congressional Appropriation Committee meetings are scheduled leading up to Sept. 30, which is also the final day of the 2019 fiscal year.

The two government branch budgets include the Executive Branch’s, which is the largest budget comprising various departments and programs providing services to the Osage public, the various boards and commissions and the Office of the Principal Chief. The budget bill (ONCA 19-77 sponsored by Congressman Eli Potts, who is also Congressional Appropriations Committee chairman) was filed at approximately $26 million, but is subject to reductions to help keep FY 2020 proposed spending below the projected revenue level and to keep some unappropriated funding available during FY 2020, which starts Oct. 1.

At the Sept. 24 Appropriations Committee meeting, discussion with Executive Branch officials, including Treasurer Jim Littleton, touched on whether reductions can be made after some attendees expressed concern proposed employee salary raises would be cut.

Congressman RJ Walker told the committee the Nation would have about $100,000 remaining in unappropriated tribal revenue with the budget bills passing for other needs throughout FY 2020. Congressman Eli Potts noted there are other FY 2020 budgets to keep in mind too as the budget reduction discussion continued.

Littleton said approximately 200 employee positions are eligible for salary increases for reasons including good job performance evaluations and for obtaining certification or higher education degrees. Comptroller Tasha Fox told the committee there are also 19 proposed new employee positions with the Nation.

Casey Johnson, director of operations for the Executive Branch and Littleton asked the committee if the Executive Branch could get a number to reduce budgets to and proposed to meet with other officials to see where reductions could be made.

After more discussion, Congresswoman Paula Stabler motioned for the committee to have the Treasurer return with ONCA 19-77’s amount reduced to not exceed $23,625,060 without conducting layoffs of current employees. The motion passed unanimously.

For the Legislative Branch, the Congress passed its FY 2020 budget (ONCA 19-74) on Sept. 24 for $2.1 million with an 11-1 vote with a “no” vote from Congresswoman Alice Goodfox after the Congress debated and questioned the timing of budget bill passages with ONCA 19-77 still pending.

On Sept. 23, the Congress voted down the FY 2020 budgets for the Judicial Branch and Office of Attorney General following debate. Afterward, Potts filed two new budget bills for those two entities for consideration again along with other pending budget and appropriation bills. Those refilled budget bills are:

- ONCA 19-94 (Potts) is the $1.7 million budget bill for the Office of the Attorney General.

- ONCA 19-95 (Potts) is the Judicial Branch’s FY 2020 budget for $413,691.

- ONCA 19-96 (Potts) is a separate bill to appropriate $4,933 for employee merit payments for Judicial Branch employees and $7,824 to the Legislative Branch for merit payments in accordance with the Workforce Pay for Performance Act.

With the session’s end coming, the committee discussion also mentioned that extending the session up to three additional days as allowed by Osage law would be possible. “If we can, I want that to be taken into consideration,” said Congresswoman Alice Goodfox, adding “this is worthy of extending the session.”

Copies of filed legislative bills and resolutions, as well as Congressional meeting notices and agendas for sessions are posted online to the Legislative Branch website at: https://www.osagenation-nsn.gov/who-we-are/legislative-branch

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