You may have noticed some recent news articles about the State Auditor, Rebecca Otto, wasting over $107,000 to sue the Minnesota Legislature because she disagrees with a law passed last session contained in the State Government Finance omnibus bill. As a member of the State Government Finance Committee, I take this matter very seriously and see Auditor Otto’s actions as opposition to the law-making process and a complete and utter waste of taxpayer dollars.
The provision in the omnibus bill that’s causing angst for the auditor relates to how counties conduct mandatory audits. Before the new law, 28 counties had the option to hire a certified public accounting (CPA) firm to perform audits, while the rest of the counties went through the state auditor, usually at a higher cost from the state auditor. The provision we changed allowed ALL counties the option of hiring a private CPA firm to do the same job but possibly at a lower cost for taxpayers.
The Office of the State Auditor still has final oversight over county audits but counties can now save money by finding more competitive bids. Shaking up the monopoly of our state government and easing the burden on taxpayers seems like a victory for all Minnesotans. We heard testimony in committee that some counties could save upwards of $20,000 hard-earned taxpayer dollars on their annual audit costs by using private CPA firms.
The State Government Finance omnibus bill passed the House of Representatives and members of both parties in the House and Senate debated then passed the bill during conference committee. The governor then signed the bill in May. With legislators from both parties in agreement and the governor’s signature attached, it would seem like lawmakers did what Minnesotans hope their elected officials will do in St. Paul: work together for the betterment of our state. Unfortunately, Auditor Otto can’t accept that and has started a costly campaign against the Legislature at the expense of you, the taxpayer.
Despite the bipartisan changes to county audits, Auditor Otto simply can’t accept the new law. She’s willing to waste over $100,000 of YOUR taxes to sue the Legislature. If she follows through with the lawsuit, the state will continue to shell out for legal fees and force the Attorney General to spend time and money defending the state. I hope the auditor will see that she continues to waste taxpayer dollars in an attempt to intimidate and bully legislators from both parties.
If you would like to share your thoughts on this issue, please don’t hesitate to contact me. You can reach me at (651) 296-4282 or Rep.Jim.Nash@house.mn.