The Douglas County Board approved a resolution supporting several bills introduced in the Nebraska Legislature, including a constitutional amendment that would prevent unfunded mandates—services that local governments are required by state or federal law to provide but don’t receive state or federal funding.
The Board also voted to oppose a constitutional amendment that would prohibit the inheritance tax.
Commissioner Maureen Boyle said she doesn’t like the inheritance tax, but the county needs the revenue to pay for unfunded mandates.
“To be told ‘You have to pay for this…but you have to have the citizens of your county cover the cost of this,’ to me that’s the most frustrating,” Boyle said. “I really do feel like we have to have a replacement from the state.”
Douglas County Finance Director Joe Lorenz said the inheritance tax impacts only the wealthiest estates and it generates a large amount of revenue. He said the revenue doesn’t go toward the county’s general fund; it goes toward social services like the Douglas County Health Center and general assistance.
“In some ways it’s just a tax that transfers wealth from wealthy individuals to help the needy population,” Lorenz said.
Commissioner Mike Friend abstained from both votes. He said he didn’t support some of the legislative bills included in the package.
As Douglas County recognizes Human Trafficking Awareness and Prevention month, the Board approved grant funding for multiple nonprofits to reduce risks for minors. Commissioner Boyle said the criminalization of trafficking victims needs to be addressed, especially for girls.
“We really need to do a lot more work in this area and there’s a huge need for it,” Boyle said.
The Omaha City Council approved a $98,535 agreement with George Butler Associates to assess the sewer system underneath the proposed streetcar route. The agreement was approved 4-3.
Jim Theiler from public works said the investigation is routine for any infrastructure project. He said they need to make sure the sewer infrastructure doesn’t interfere with the construction of the streetcar.
Theiler said the city is already evaluating other sections of the sewer system, and this agreement prioritizes existing funding to assess the streetcar route.
“We will investigate a portion of our system annually, and then we will investigate for projects annually,” Theiler said. “We budget for pipeline improvements about $45 million, and based on priorities we will move that money around.”
Councilmember Juanita Johnson voted against the agreement, citing her opposition to the streetcar. She said the city needs to take action on improving public transit connecting north and south Omaha.
Councilmembers Aimee Melton and Brinker Harding also voted no. Councilmember Melton said she was in support of the project, but voted no because of a lack of information. She said she wanted to see a list of previous projects that required a sewer assessment like this.