By Esme Murphy

ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) – A Minnesota House Committee approved $15 million in emergency funding for Minnesota’s troubled vehicle registration and licensing system.

But the MNLARS funding request will likely have a much harder time getting passed in the Republican-controlled state senate.

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The Minnesota House Ways and Means Committee voted in favor of $15 million dollars in emergency stopgap funding for MNLARS, the troubled licensing and vehicle registration program running through June of this year.

The $15 million is in addition to the $84 million Gov. Tim Walz asked for in his two-year budget. The Walz proposal includes money for staffing and other services.

The troubled system has already cost taxpayers over $100 million, which means the cost totals through 2021 could top $209 million.

The sponsor of the stopgap $15 million bill, Rep. Rick Hansen of South St. Paul, says the state has no choice.

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“It’s frustrating for everybody around here, but what do we do? Do we throw our papers up in the air and say, ‘I am not going to spend any more money,’ or we can get the job done,” he said.

The measure passed the House Committee over objections by Republicans. Republican Rep. Steve Drazkowski blasted MNLARS.

“This appears to me to be additional money disguised as a deficiency that will allow the department to double up on their appropriations somehow,” he said.

The larger fight over MNLARS funding will likely come in the Republican-controlled Minnesota Senate. Earlier this month, the powerful Chair of the Minnesota Senate Transportation Committee said he was considering not even holding a hearing on the $15 million in stopgap spending.

A staffer for Sen. Scott Newman said he would not comment today but would likely have a comment later this week.

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That $15 million stopgap funding measure for MNLARS is expected to pass the full House as early as this evening.

Esme Murphy