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Osage Congress approves 5% COLA to merited government employees

The first ON employee paychecks reflecting the 5% COLA were distributed on Feb. 16.

Osage Nation government employees working under the merit system received a 5% cost of living adjustment to their salaries after the Eighth ON Congress approved legislation for the increases during the 10th Special Session.

The Congress resumed discussion and consideration of the COLA after the issue was initially postponed during the 2023 Tzi-Sho Session pending receipt of financial documentation to budget funding for the increases. Amid inflation cost increases to goods and services following the global COVID-19 pandemic, the 5% COLA approval is the second increase Congress has approved with the first increase occurring in April 2022 when the Seventh ON Congress approved a 10% COLA increase for merited ON government employees.

On Feb. 1, the Congressional Appropriations Committee revisited the 5% COLA consideration and approved resolution ONCR 23-19 (sponsored by Congresswoman and committee chair Jodie Revard) which is a resolution approving the 5% COLA request made by Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear during the fall session.

“This is a resolution that was submitted back during Tzi-Sho (session) and was postponed until after (Acting) Treasurer Tyler McIntosh had returned (from a family emergency at the time) to be able to look at the COLA using solid numbers provided by our Treasury Department,” Revard told the committee. “Since then, we’ve received that and so this resolution is (the one) we’ll use to say ‘we agree with providing a COLA to our folks at 5% for (the current fiscal year) FY24.”

During the Special Session, Congress also reviewed and approved separate appropriation legislation to fund the COLA adjustments for ON-merited employees working under the Executive Branch departments, and entities, as well as employees working in the Judicial Branch. During the Tzi-Sho Session, Congress passed its respective FY 2024 budget (ONCA 23-82 sponsored by Second Speaker Pam Shaw), which included the 5% COLA for its Congressional Office staff members.

Congresswoman Paula Stabler said she also agreed with approving the COLA adjustment in keeping with the agreement to revisit it after the fall session. “I agree with this, I’m ready to move forward with it. We discussed it in the fall, I felt like it was a promise that we made to the employees to follow through on it,” Stabler said.

To fund the 5% COLA, Congress unanimously passed ONCR 23-19 and the respective appropriation bill ONCA 24-24 (sponsored by Revard) to amend the Executive Branch’s budget in providing $1.1 million in tribal funding for the COLA. According to the bill, the money will be used with $764,716 for salaries/ wages; $191,179 for employee benefits/ payroll tax; and $238,974 for indirect costs.

In a separate appropriation bill vote, Congress also passed ONCA 24-28 (Shaw) which amended the Judicial Branch’s FY 2024 budget to include $23,510 for the respective branch employees to receive a COLA.

The COLA-related legislation passed with a 12-0 vote on Feb. 2 and took effect with Standing Bear’s signature. The first ON employee paychecks reflecting the 5% COLA were distributed on Feb. 16.

Author

  • Benny Polacca

    Title: Senior Reporter

    Email: bpolacca@osagenation-nsn.gov

    Instagram: @bpolacca

    Topic Expertise: Government, Tribal Government, Community

    Languages spoken: English, basic knowledge of Spanish and French

    Benny Polacca (Hopi/ Havasupai/ Pima/ Tohono O’odham) started working at the Osage News in 2009 as a reporter in Pawhuska, Okla., where he’s covered various stories and events that impact the Osage Nation and Osage people. Those newspaper contributions cover a broad spectrum of topics and issues from tribal government matters to features. As a result, Polacca has gained an immeasurable amount of experience in covering Native American affairs, government issues and features so the Osage readership can be better informed about the tribal current affairs the newspaper covers.

    Polacca is part of the Osage News team that was awarded the Native American Journalists Association's Elias Boudinet Free Press Award in 2014 and has won numerous NAJA media awards, as well as awards from the Oklahoma Press Association and SPJ Oklahoma Pro Chapter, for storytelling coverage and photography.

    Polacca earned his bachelor’s degree from Arizona State University and also participated in the former American Indian Journalism Institute at the University of South Dakota where he was introduced to the basics of journalism and worked with seasoned journalists there and later at The Forum daily newspaper covering the Fargo, N.D. area where he worked as the weeknight reporter.

Benny Polacca
Benny Polaccahttps://osagenews.org

Title: Senior Reporter

Email: bpolacca@osagenation-nsn.gov

Instagram: @bpolacca

Topic Expertise: Government, Tribal Government, Community

Languages spoken: English, basic knowledge of Spanish and French

Benny Polacca (Hopi/ Havasupai/ Pima/ Tohono O’odham) started working at the Osage News in 2009 as a reporter in Pawhuska, Okla., where he’s covered various stories and events that impact the Osage Nation and Osage people. Those newspaper contributions cover a broad spectrum of topics and issues from tribal government matters to features. As a result, Polacca has gained an immeasurable amount of experience in covering Native American affairs, government issues and features so the Osage readership can be better informed about the tribal current affairs the newspaper covers.

Polacca is part of the Osage News team that was awarded the Native American Journalists Association's Elias Boudinet Free Press Award in 2014 and has won numerous NAJA media awards, as well as awards from the Oklahoma Press Association and SPJ Oklahoma Pro Chapter, for storytelling coverage and photography.

Polacca earned his bachelor’s degree from Arizona State University and also participated in the former American Indian Journalism Institute at the University of South Dakota where he was introduced to the basics of journalism and worked with seasoned journalists there and later at The Forum daily newspaper covering the Fargo, N.D. area where he worked as the weeknight reporter.

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