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An Alarming Price Tag: The Wasteful, Inefficient Government Program

February 16, 2010

Senators consider a bill to reveal the costs of the death penalty in Nebraska

On Wednesday, February 24th the Judiciary Committee held a hearing on LB1105 which would compare the costs of Nebraska’s death penalty with non-death-penalty sentences resulting from capital murder convictions. You can read an article from the Lincoln Journal Star about the hearing here. “This isn’t just a bill in the sense of a pending law,” said NADP Board Chair Amy Miller. “This is also the bill handed to taxpayers with the dollars and cents it costs to exterminate life.”

 

Just two days after the hearing, a new forecast of state tax revenues from the Nebraska Economic Forecasting Advisory Board predicted that Nebraska lawmakers will have another $30.7 million budget gap to close this year. This comes after the Legislature already cut state spending and aid and dipped into various cash funds to close a $334 million budget short fall for the current year. According to the Governor, “this forecast indicates that the state has more challenging times ahead. It is clear that the Legislature needs to enact additional spending reductions to get the budget back in balance.”

 

According to Sen. Lavon Heidemann, chairman of the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee, the Leglislature will be considering every possible cost saving measure. Whether that includes ending one of the state’s most wasteful and inefficient programs—the death penalty—remains to be seen.

 

The true cost of executions in Nebraska is currently unknown, as no cost study has ever been undertaken here. But we can anticipate the results of a cost study by looking to studies done in other states. More than a dozen states have found that the death penalty is up to 10 times more expensive than sentences of life or life without parole. In our neighboring state of Kansas, the median cost of a death penalty case is $1.26 million, or 70 percent more than comparable non-death penalty cases. Indeed, the costs of the original trial and appeals in Kansas are 16 and 21 times more costly, respectively, than comparable non-death penalty cases.

 

We call on our State Senators to pass LB 1105. In a budget crunch year where aid to pregnant low-income women, schoolchildren, the disabled, and the elderly have all been cut, saving millions by abandoning the death penalty sounds better and better. NADP will continue our work to ensure that tax payers in Nebraska have a clear picture of how and where our money is being spent.

 

Please take a minute today to contact your State Senator and ask him/her to support LB1105 to shine a light on the costs of the death penalty in Nebraska! For more information on the cost of the death penalty and how to contact your Senator please visit www.nadp.net.

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