ON Congress still considering FY 2016 budgets

With approximately one week left in the 2015 fiscal year, the Fourth Osage Nation Congress is considering several financial issues before approving the 2016 ON government budgets in the ongoing Tzi-Zho Session.

As of Sept. 23, the Congress has passed its $2.3 million Legislative Branch budget, but budgets for the other two branches and boards/ commissions and entities including the Attorney General’s Office await Congressional action, which include potential amendments.

Throughout the Tzi-Zho Session so far, the Congressional committees are meeting for initial consideration and action of the FY 2016 budgets. As a result of the meetings, the Congress and Executive Branch officials are addressing issues such as additional information inquiries and other new developments that must be considered before the budgets are sent to the Congress for final action.

One issue the Congress is facing is ensuring the FY 2016 budgets for tribal money spending is below the FY 2016 projected revenue threshold set at $43.7 million. The Congress set the projected revenue figure in the spring Hun-Kah Session after receiving financial reports from the revenue generators including the seven-Osage Casino Gaming Enterprise, the Tax Commission and Treasurer’s Office, which tracks the interest generated on the Nation’s bank accounts.

The Congressional Appropriations Committee met on Sept. 16 and made recommendations on tribal dollar spending, which states: “The Appropriations Committee recommends no additional appropriation be made for the Health Benefit Plan during this session; the Master Campus Plan loan payment be kept to the minimum required for the fiscal year 2016; additional reductions in tribal funding be made in new spending, and to hold tribal spending in accordance with projected revenue of $43,775,000.”

The Appropriations Committee recommendation is not a requirement set in law, but gives guidance on addressing further budget issues, according to Congressional Speaker Maria Whitehorn.

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