April 11, 2018 10:16 PM
You can add controversial funding for a call center to the list of problems plaguing the Minnesota Licensing and Registration System known as MNLARS.
This week, the Department of Public Safety, which runs the Driver and Vehicle Services office, told lawmakers it is spending $1.3 million from a highway user account funded by the gas tax to pay for hiring 26 workers at a call center.
The call center has been overwhelmed by calls and emails about the MNLARS system from customers frustrated after trying to get license tabs and titles.
"I will do everything here at the legislature to stop you from getting these funds because this is an inappropriate use of highway purpose dollars," Sen. Torrey Westrom, R-Elbow Lake, told DPS Commissioner Mona Dohman at a hearing of the Senate Transportation Committee.
The chairman of the committee, Sen. Scott Newman, R-Hutchinson, aimed pointed questions at Dohman.
"I assume that you are relying on somebody at DPS that has advised you that in their opinion the transfer of money from (the highway user fund) to hire people to answer the telephone falls within the constitutional definition of 'highway purposes,'" he asked.
"Is that a fair statement?"
Dohman testified that she consulted with several people, and the governor also signed off on the move.
"The decision and interpretation and analysis was done by a number of people and we essentially came to a joint decision that it was an appropriate use," Dohman said.
Last month, the legislature approved $10 million in emergency funding so work on fixing MNLARS could continue. However, lawmakers specifically denied approval of funding to hire more people at the call center.
They wanted all the new funding to go toward fixing the system.
With 75 percent of what are hundreds of thousands of calls now being met with a busy signal, and up to 12-day delays in responding to emails, Dohman said DPS had to find the call center money somewhere.
"We had hoped that we would be appropriated money out of the emergency $10 million dollar ask," she said. "And that didn't happen, and so we made a decision to use those funds."
Updated: April 11, 2018 10:16 PM
Created: April 11, 2018 06:25 PM
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