Legislative Testimony for LB781: Provide for annual continuing education for treasurers of certain local governments and provide a duty for the Auditor of Public Accounts

Good afternoon, Chairman Brewer and members of the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee, my name is Nicole Fox, and I am here to testify on behalf of the Platte Institute in support of LB781.

There are many legitimate needs facing local governments in our state. The decisions made by local governments can have a significant impact on the quality of life and services received in communities across Nebraska. In order to earn a citizen’s trust, officials need to show that they are prudent in making decisions that impact their constituencies.

Motivations for running for public office can vary for candidates.  Those in elected office come from different backgrounds, have different levels of education as well as have different levels of experience.

A Pew Research Center 2019 report reveals that only 17% of Americans trust the government in Washington to do what is right most of the time.[i]  By contrast, 67% percent of citizens reported confidence and trust in their local government.[ii] That may be the case because local governments are much closer to the problems that constituents face.  Also, constituents may feel a greater sense of personal connection and accessibility to their local officials.

Despite this increased level of trust in government at the local level, our local government officials sometimes fail to meet the expectations of its citizens.  In recent years, local governments in Nebraska have experienced unfortunate and costly issues due to the actions of their elected officials. 

In Harlan County, a state audit revealed that approximately $108,000 was missing from the Harlan County treasurer’s office over a 3-year period.[iii]

In the village of Pilger, a state audit report indicated the village clerk made nearly $719,000 in questionable expenditures going back to 2006.  In fact, when commenting on the incident, an Omaha World Herald editorial pointed out that there was a vital need for education.[iv]

LB781 is an attempt to address potential knowledge gaps. LB781 requires that city, village, and county treasurers annually complete continuing education through a program approved by the Auditor of Public Accounts. If the city or village clerk is acting as the treasurer, they shall also comply with the requirements.

While many of Nebraska’s elected officials are dedicated to serving the public with integrity and maintain high standards of professionalism, hardworking Nebraskans deserve to know that those elected to manage public finances are doing so in a manner that is in accordance with standards set forth by the Auditor of Public Accounts.

The Platte Institute thanks Senator Stinner for introducing LB781 and hopes the committee considers moving this bill forward.

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