By Pat Kessler

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Top Republicans proposed abolishing the state’s information technology office Thursday.

That dramatic move comes after the botched rollout of the new computer vehicle registration system, called MNLARS.

That new motor vehicle computer system has glitches so serious that it can take months to complete a simple transaction.

That is why some lawmakers are calling for an end to Minnesota’s IT department, called MN.IT.

The troubled rollout began last July, when the new MNLARS computer system could not handle some transactions as simple as license tabs.

Eight months later, lawmakers have had enough.

“And we are here because MN.IT is broken, and it became abundantly clear with the MNLARS debacle,” said Sen. Julie Rosen, (R) Finance Committee.

Fed-up Senate Republicans plan to abolish MN.IT as a full-fledged state department, and create a much-smaller Division of Information Technology.

Democratic Governor Mark Dayton has appointed a former Brigadier General Johanna Clayton to lead MN.IT and clean up the MNLARS mess.

“I take a no nonsense approach to things,” Clayton said.

In a statement, she called the Republican bill a “knee-jerk reaction,” and said, “We have a responsibility to look beyond scoring short-term political points.”

Democratic Gov. Dayton says he was not consulted on this major change.

“I can tell when I’m being gamed,” Dayton said.

He is accusing Republicans of slow-walking a request for an emergency infusion of $10 million for a MNLARS patch.

“I’ll take the blame for the problem, but you’re going to share the responsibility for the lack of improvements,” Dayton said.

Republican Sen. Scott Newman, the powerful chairman of the transportation committee, says he is skeptical Minnesota’s IT department can handle the MNLARS fix.

“Based on past performance, I have serious doubts. Because based on past performance, they haven’t done all that great a job,” Newman said.

Instead of administering services like MNsure and MNLARS, the new office would handle web pages, emails and computer upgrades.

MN.IT officials say this move will give other states a big technology edge over Minnesota. They may also have to lay off many computer experts if MNLARS does not get emergency funding.

The department has sent out layoff notices to many staff effective in 30 days, and one top IT expert may have already left.

Thus, a ramping down could begin soon, delaying a MNLARS fix even longer.

Pat Kessler