A recent legislative update of mine put some light on the latest failings of Minnesota’s new system for processing motor vehicle licensing.
Since I sent that email, a number of people have asked me for some additional background information regarding the Minnesota Licensing and Registration System. What people really want to know is why the MNLARS rollout has been such a disaster, who is responsible, and what it’s going to take to fix it.
I appreciate the questions and, while we could spend hours on end discussing MNLARS, I’ll try to boil it down to the basics. First, some background:
The MNLARS project began in 2008 when the Legislature passed a technology surcharge to fund a new state IT system for handling auto licenses and registrations. The project started under Gov. Pawlenty, but the actual IT construction did not begin until the Dayton administration was in place.
The goal with MNLARS is to create a modern, unified IT system to replace the 30-year-old existing model. State government-based Minnesota IT took over the responsibility of building the system in 2014 after Hewlett-Packard was fired, reportedly over poor quality work.
Incorporation of Real ID into the system to meet new federal standards (with a federal deadline approaching in October) has led the Minnesota Department of Vehicle Services to hire a private firm called FAST Enterprises to build the new drivers licensing system. This part is separate from MNLARS, which will only handle the vehicle side.
Some have asked why we don’t hire a private company, such as FAST, to do the vehicle side. The main problem with that is no private firms appear willing to come in and fix the existing system and very few companies build these systems from scratch.
MNIT estimates it would cost taxpayers $75 million to use FAST to build the vehicle system and there is no guarantee FAST would even take the job. In fact, we have been told they likely would decline since they already are heavily occupied building out several other states’ systems.
As for a closer look at MNLARS from failed launch until now:
MNLARS went live on July 20, with several problems that caused licensing delays, backlogs and headaches throughout the state. MNIT and DPS released a MNLARS Roadmap on Jan. 31, showing how they plan to fix problems in the system. These plans included a request for another $43 million from taxpayers for fiscal year 2019 – on top of the nearly $100 million that already has been spent on this project the last decade.
If the $43 million request is not fulfilled by March 1, MNIT/DPS has said approximately 50 contractors will receive layoff notices and the improvements to the system will come to a grinding halt (MNLARS itself will not shut down).
However, if the $43 million request is fulfilled, MNIT/DPS says high-priority problems with MNLARS would be fixed by this July and additional improvements would be brought along through December of 2019.
With the 2018 legislative session starting in St. Paul, House Republicans are seeking answers. The heat was put on MNIT/DPS during a recent meeting in St. Paul. Strong demands were made in the name of transparency and tough questions regarding accountability were asked.
The bottom line is MNLARS needs to be fixed, it is just very unfortunate that mismanagement by the Dayton administration has caused real consequences for people all over the state. This session we will be exploring every available option to make MNLARS work, while also doing all we can to protect taxpayers from paying even more to clean up this horrendous mess.