NTF worksheet: legwatch269.doc. 3-23.

Good afternoon. Doug Kagan, Omaha, representing NE Taxpayers for Freedom. We ask this committee to examine this bill in a wider context. Years ago, several Douglas Co. commissioners began planning financing for a new juvenile detention center and additional space required for judicial services but failed to alert the public until the planning and financing was well under way, thereby avoiding public input. Instead of building a modest structure or renovating the existing juvenile structure on county land, commissioners decided on a lavish tower in downtown Omaha, with insufficient space to hold violent juvenile offenders. A real budget buster. Now, county officials are asking for a new tax to operate and maintain a new mental health center. We understand the need for mental health services. However, commissioners for years have wanted permission to levy a sales tax to fund other expenditures. Again, they envision a separate facility, despite urging from our taxpayer group and others that the county should engage with UNMC for a joint facility or solicit surrounding counties for a regional facility. These alternatives would lessen the burden on the Douglas Co. budget and taxpayers. In addition, we now understand from the city-county building commission that the county building again requires more space for county offices, probably placing another financial burden on taxpayers.

Our main objection to this new tax is that a majority of Douglas Co. commissioners have been poor stewards of taxpayer revenue. Like the county extraneously spending its inheritance tax, we believe this county board would spend this new revenue on other projects. Although commissioners pay consultants to assist their strategic planning, they grievously failed to strategically plan for a new juvenile detention center, mental health center, and additional office space as a combined venture. Therefore, we urge this committee to indefinitely postpone LB 381 until Douglas Co. commissioners can improve their strategic expenditures policies.

*Nebraska Taxpayers for Freedom was the only one to testify against this bill.

Sponsor Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh: Many citizens need mental health, like the homeless, druggies, and criminals. 50% of mentally ill now not receiving needed mental health services. Law officers must deal with the mentally ill now.
City of Omaha rep: Bill is an opportunity for Douglas Co. to deal with psychiatric outpatients and detox individuals. Increased demand for mental health services. A struggle for some to readjust following the pandemic. School kids need these services.
Lancaster Co. Commissioner: Mental health service needs are increasing, especially for jail inmates. Long list of individuals requiring treatment. Kids are desperate. Family services needed. Insufficient federal funds to help. Need for behavioral health care, working with private providers.
NE Assoc. of Regional Administrators: Bill a smart investment in mental health.
NE Assoc. of County Officials: Mental health is a burgeoning issue, and costs are rising. Sheriffs increasingly facing mental health problem inmates. A public safety issue.
League of Women Voters: Mental health is a responsibility to people and economic development. Many need mental health care but not receiving it because of cost. 29 NE counties have no mental health providers.
League of NE Municipalities: County tax for mental health should not pay for other things also.

Previous post:

Next post: