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Lack of MNLARS funding in omnibus transportation finance bill cause for MN.IT concern

Work on fixing Minnesota’s sputtering vehicle registration system will again slow to a crawl next year without an additional $33 million in funding that state officials have requested, the head of the state’s information technology agency cautioned House lawmakers Wednesday.

Johanna Clyborne, director of MN.IT, delivered the warning during testimony on the omnibus transportation finance bill that was released Tuesday and is scheduled for a committee vote Thursday.

The bill would provide an additional $101 million in Fiscal Year 2019 for transportation projects across the state. But it doesn’t include the $33 million for the Department of Public Safety and MN.IT that state officials say is needed to bring MNLARS, the state’s new vehicle registration system, up to full functionality.

Without the requested funding, Clyborne told lawmakers, “I wouldn’t say it [would be] a crawl — I’d say it’s treading water.”

Last month, the governor signed into law an emergency $9.6 million appropriation so work on the glitchy system could continue. The department had to issue layoff notices to contract employees working on the MNLARS project before the funding was passed, however, and Clyborne said her agency is still getting back up to speed after that slowdown.

Lawmakers have expressed mounting frustration at the messy rollout of the registration system. MNLARS’ stumbles have badly hurt deputy registrars, auto dealers and vehicle owners across the state. Legislative Republicans were reluctant to pass the emergency funding without added performance and accountability measures.

Jon Eichten, MN.IT’s legislative director, said that with the requested funding, agency officials expect the system to be fully operational as early as late summer. 

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