Government , Business

Congress approves FY 2021 projected revenue at $56.1 million

For the 2021 fiscal year, the Osage Nation government is expecting to receive $56.1 million in projected revenue, which will be used for considering and approving the next year’s government operations budget during the Tzi-Zho Session.

According to the 2006 Osage Constitution, Congress shall enact, by law, an annual expenditure of funds, which shall include an appropriation of operating funds for each branch of government for the fiscal year and the annual budget shall not exceed projected revenues.

During the August special session, the Seventh ON Congress voted to set the $56.1 million projected revenue by approving ONCR 20-24 (sponsored by Congresswoman Jodie Revard) on Aug. 13, which is a resolution setting the FY 2021 annual revenue projection with an 11-1 vote.

According to the resolution, the Nation projects to receive a total of $56,180,085 with $50,718,200 coming from tribal funding. The Nation also projects to receive approximately $5.4 million in restricted revenue with $5 million in third-party clinic billings from the Wahzhazhe Health Center and $461,885 from the Treatment Alternative to Street Crime (TASC) operations.

For FY 2021, the Nation projects to receive $46 million from the Gaming Enterprise/ Osage Casinos operations and $2.2 million from Tax Commission revenue. The Nation’s departments and programs that collect income are projected to receive $2.1 million and $250,000 from bank interest income.

Revard, who is the current Congressional Appropriations Committee chair, said she received projected figures from Nation officials including the Treasurer, Gaming Enterprise Board and the Tax Commission. On July 29, the Gaming Enterprise Board voted to set the FY 2021 estimated gaming distribution amount at $46 million.

During an Aug. 6 committee discussion on the projected revenue, Congressman Eli Potts questioned the layout of budget outlays listed in ONCR 20-24, which are listed in the resolution for the branches of government. Revard also included for the first time the Minerals Council and the three Osage villages of Grayhorse, Hominy and Pawhuska. Potts said he preferred to see the OMC and villages under the Executive Branch outlay, noting it could create confusion and questions of why other budgeted entities are not broken out in outlays, such as the Higher Education Scholarship and the Health Benefit Fund.

Congressional legal counsel Loyed “Trey” Gill said he spoke with Revard on the resolution and said he did not see any restrictions in Osage law by including the OMC and villages in the resolution with the three government branches.  

The reports come as the Nation’s gaming management and government officials spent weeks regrouping and revisiting its financial status following the two-month shutdown of the seven Osage Casinos due to the COVID-19 pandemic that first struck Oklahoma in early March.

In April, after the casinos shut down and there was no tribal distribution funding from gaming coming in, the Sixth ON Congress voted during the 2020 Hun-Kah Session to appropriate $8.1 million from the Nation’s Permanent Fund – an unprecedented legislative move – to continue funding the government operations. That month, the Nation also received $5.1 million from the Paycheck Protection Program as part of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act to go toward continuing to pay ON government employees.     

Congressman Scott BigHorse said despite the conversation on the projected revenue, he is pleased with the numbers discussed considering the unprecedented hardships brought on by the pandemic. “Six months ago, we didn’t know where we were going to be (going) into this budget season and to see these numbers is very encouraging … I think we’ve been provided with some good numbers – there may be a difference of opinion on how we arrived at those numbers, but to me those are semantics,” he said.

On Aug. 13, Congress voted 11-1 on the resolution with Potts voting “no” stating that he did not agree with the listed budgetary outlays including the OMC and the three villages, adding “we can’t and shouldn’t do more than the law explicitly states” and said he believed it needed more work. Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear signed the resolution after the special session ended.