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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Paul Torkelson (R)

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Thursday, March 1, 2018

They say money can’t buy happiness. It apparently can’t buy effectiveness either.


Case in point: the Minnesota Licensing and Registration System (MNLARS) for DMV's and deputy registrar offices. After ten years of planning and testing, and nearly $100 million in taxpayer resources used to ensure its success, this new computer program was unveiled in July throughout the state.


It wasn’t long before Minnesotans discovered it was not ready for primetime. It was overwhelmed by complications; Minnesotans found themselves unable to buy tabs, and DMV offices weren't able to process car titles and other basic transactions.


The Minnesota House Transportation Finance Committee held hearings to find out what was going wrong. We’ve dedicated thousands of hours between legislators and staff responding to and fielding complaints from Minnesotans about the troubles they're seeing. We've held several hearings to demand answers from Dayton administration officials. We were told the problems were fixable, and that the issue was not money-related.


So imagine our surprise when the Dayton administration said another $43 million was needed to “complete this project” as stated in a recent column by the new MNLARS project manager.


The problem is, the Dayton administration cannot guarantee the massive amount of funding they're asking for will make MNLARS fully functional in the next year.


We are committed to working with the Dayton administration to fix the problem, as Minnesotans deserve hassle-free trips to the DMV, but we will not give Governor Dayton a blank check.


Until we receive some specific answers, assurances that those responsible for this mess are being held accountable, and a new direction that will likely involve outside technology experts, the legislature has no plans to throw good money after bad. Minnesota taxpayers deserve nothing less.


A recent KMSP-TV investigative report found that three years ago a MNLARS analyst told the Governor’s Office directly that the program was “headed for a cliff,” and in a secret recording the Governor’s Chief of Staff told this analyst she was going to look into it.


Yet nothing happened, except denials throughout the administration that the meeting ever took place, or that anyone knew MNLARS was experiencing problems – even though the recording proves otherwise.


As lawmakers, we have a responsibility to get to the bottom of what happened, hold the administration accountable, and ensure that we are being good stewards of Minnesota tax dollars.


This week we are introducing legislation to ask that the governor find funding within his executive agencies to continue work on MNLARS.


Minnesotans have already paid nearly $100 million for this project, and along the way it's now clear that warning signs and red flags raised by employees were ignored or dismissed. The Governor has said he accepts full responsibility for the failures, so we want to see actions that back those words up. Minnesotans are rightfully fed up, and are demanding accountability before we even think about providing tens of millions more for this disastrous project.