State officials said they needed legislative approval last week for the transfer of $10 million from a Division of Vehicle Services reserve account to the Minnesota Licensing and Registration System, or MNLARS.
Minnesota IT Services sent out 30-day layoff notices to 39 MNLARS contractors when lawmakers missed the March 1 deadline.
Rep. Dave Baker, R-Willmar, said he believes Tuesday's committee action will prevent people from leaving those jobs.
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"I hope our friends at MNIT and DVS go back to the contractors and tell them a major win was today, because money is being moved through the process. That's a big win," Baker said.
The bill provides $10 million from existing DVS accounts. But it requires Gov. Mark Dayton's administration to replace the money by cutting an equal amount from executive branch budgets. The bill also requires a detailed project schedule and performance measures for MNLARS, as well as an informal feasibility study on turning the project over to a private vendor.
Rep. Frank Hornstein, DFL-Minneapolis, said the bill is convoluted and requires too many additional committee stops. Hornstein warned that the bill puts MNLARS repairs in jeopardy.
"The bill as it is without amendment will cause more delays, will cause more private sector contractors leave. It will make a bad problem worse," he said.
Hornstein tried unsuccessfully to pass a simple money transfer that could be sent directly to the full House for a vote.
Republicans insisted on legislative oversight and holding the administration accountable.
Rep. Jason Rarick, R-Pine City, said many of his constituents would rather not see any additional money spent on MNLARS. He said the accountability provisions should help ease those concerns. Rarick isn't worried about people leaving. He said some new blood would be a good thing.
"You leave a few people that have been there, and you bring new people in with a new perspective and a new attitude. That's how things get done and done better and fixed," Rarick said.
But Minnesota IT Services Commissioner Johanna Clyborne is concerned about losing forward progress on the MNLARS repairs. Clyborne told lawmakers that after the layoff notices went out, several contractors told her they were looking for new jobs.
"Makes sense. I have a mortgage to pay, so does everyone else," Clyborne said. "You're not sure that you're going to have a job at the end of the month. I'd be looking for a way to keep the roof over my head and feed my babies."
Earlier in the day, Dayton shared his frustration with the delay, which he blamed on Republicans.
"I've really come to believe that there are some legislators who don't want us to improve MNLARS," Dayton said.
Dayton again accepted blame for the problems with the rollout. But he said legislators must now share the responsibility of getting it fixed. Dayton said the House Republican proposal is a nonstarter.
"That's not a solution," he said. "That's just batting the problem around. I'm not going to cannibalize the rest of state government for this. If they don't want to fix it or improve it, then so be it. It will have to sit until they decide to provide money."