When Minnesota's new vehicle licensing and registration system, MNLARS, was first rolled out last summer, Donny Vosen had a pretty good business going.
Vosen is a deputy registrar, and runs a licensing office in Brainerd. He had a staff of 15 and a healthy profit margin. Now, less than a year later, one-third of his staff has quit, and another third had to seek medical attention for stress-related illnesses.
• Report: MNLARS chief knew of license system's woes, failed to fix them • What is MNLARS? And what does it mean to you?
"This is an epic disaster for the state of Minnesota to have done this," said Vosen, who said he's lost nearly $100,000 since the faulty rollout of MNLARS. "Untested, unpiloted. And we kept telling them, this isn't working, this isn't working, this isn't working. They did not listen."
Gov. Dayton vetoed a bill that would have spent $9 million to reimburse deputy registrars for some of those losses, saying in his veto letter that he fully supports reimbursing deputy registrars for the losses they've incurred, but he won't sign a bill that doesn't also pay for fixing the MNLARS system.
There are several million dollars in a sweeping budget bill before the governor, but he's also threatened to veto that.
Vosen said the problem with MNLARS is twofold. Everything takes longer under the new system. Transferring a vehicle title or ordering tabs and plates used to take a few minutes, and each one paid Vosen's office roughly $6 in filing fees.
Now those same $6 tasks might take more than an hour.
But Vosen said the second problem made a third of his staff quit in tears.
About a quarter of the filings don't even go through. All the information is filled out and sent to St. Paul, and somewhere along the line there's a glitch. It happens a lot with logging trucks for some reason, and anything having to do with vanity plates. Other than that, the glitches are unpredictable.
"How do you teach somebody, this is how you do it? Oh, it didn't work. Try it this way. That didn't work. Try it this way. Oh, that worked. Well, okay, the next day, it doesn't work again. What do you retain? It's impossible," said Vosen.
A little more than half of Minnesota's 170 license centers are run by county governments. The rest are private businesses, like Vosen's office. County registrars have also been hit hard by the new system. Debbie Reierson, who runs the Beltrami County license center in Bemidji, said her office is down $30,000 since the start of MNLARS.
"We have a lot of lost revenue due to work that we can't process," said Reierson. "So our filing fees, our revenue that we bring in, was about half from what it was last year."
Private offices are worse off, according to Vosen.
"The counties have the advantage. If they come up short, they have to go to the taxpayer and say, 'hey, the bills have to be paid. Pay up,'" said Vosen. "With us, I can't go to the county and say, 'hey, give me more money.' I have to go deeper into my pocket, till I get to the bottom, and then I have to find another source."
Vosen is using his savings to pay the bills. He said some of his colleagues in other offices had to dip into their retirement, and are considering closing their doors.