This afternoon, Gov. Dayton couldn’t resist the temptation of bragging. That’s why he issued this statement, which read in part “Our state government has made a complete financial turnaround in the past seven-and-a-half years. The credit for Minnesota’s success belongs to the people of our state. I thank Minnesotans for their many contributions to the strength of our economy and the stabilization of our State’s budget. And I thank MMB Commissioner Myron Frans and his tremendous staff for their steadfast commitment to improving Minnesota’s financial management.”

The reason I discount Gov. Dayton’s bragging is because the GOP legislature turned things around. When they assumed majority status in the House and Senate, there was a $6,200,000,000 projected deficit waiting for them. When the DFL took control of St. Paul in 2013, that projected deficit had shrunk to $600,000,000.

Deep in the press kit document, it says “In January 2011, Minnesota was still facing the economic consequences of the Great Recession, and the state budget was a mess. Over 202,000 Minnesotans were out of work, the State of Minnesota was facing a $6.2 billion deficit and owed school districts $1.9 billion, and there was nothing in the State’s Budget Reserves. Since then, Minnesota’s economy and fiscal health has greatly improved.”

Again, the heavy lifting was done by the GOP legislature during the 2011 budget session. The unified DFL government in St. Paul in 2013 had a projected deficit ten times smaller than Republicans faced in 2011. Rather than exercising fiscal discipline, rather than listening to the voters, the DFL raised taxes by an extraordinary amount. At the end of session, they returned to their districts and got blasted by their constituents. Then they tried disguising their tax increase reductions as tax cuts. The voters weren’t impressed and installed a Republican majority in the House in 2014. Then the voters installed a GOP majority in the Senate in 2016 while keeping the GOP majority in the House. But I digress.

Earlier this morning, I found this op-ed by Sen. Julie Rosen on MNLARS’ failures. If we’re going to examine Gov. Dayton’s history, let’s examine the entire history. This paragraph especially jumped out at me:

At the time MNLARS was released, the state had already spent $90 million to get it up and running. Starting on day one, it was a complete failure.

A competent governor would’ve just bought the software from other states that had just successfully revamped their DMVs. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a competent governor. The idiot we have as a governor insisted that we keep spending more and more money on a failed system that won’t get fixed until we get a real governor. Thankfully, that’s less than half a year away when a Republican governor gets sworn in.

Make no mistake: getting it turned around will be a long, complicated process. As we speak, the nonpartisan Office of the Legislative Auditor is running four separate investigations of MNLARS. This is virtually unheard of, but it speaks to the level of dysfunction within the program. In March, the Legislature approved $9.65 million in emergency funding to address immediate IT-related costs. This money was focused on fixing the problems, not on adding unnecessary staff to answer phones.

The failures continue to this day. Thoughts of a properly-run MNLARS system have disappeared.

Let’s be clear about things. Gov. Dayton and the DFL contributed somewhat to restoring Minnesota’s financial health. In 2 of the 4 Dayton budget years, Republicans put together the majority of the budget that eventually got signed into law. In 2015, Speaker Daudt and Sen. Bakk put together a bipartisan budget that formed the framework of the budget that Gov. eventually signed. Except for the 2013 budget, Gov. Dayton shut down the government or required a special session to sign the budget he could’ve signed the final day of the regular session.

Gov. Dayton is a tragic figure in Minnesota history. A son of privilege, he’s had a troubled history rather than being a true leader.

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