When it comes time to make up a list the greatest wastes of Minnesota taxpayers’ time, money and patience, the Minnesota License and Registration System (MNLARS) will have to be at the top.
Over a decade’s years’ time, the state spent over $100 million to create its own computerized system for issuing and tracking vehicle registrations and drivers licenses. Despite all the time and money, when the system rolled out in 2017 it didn’t work. Two years later, it is still beset by bugs and problems.
On Wednesday, Gov. Tim Walz announced the state is giving up. It will continue working with MNLARS and keep it going for the 16 months vendors say it will take to replace it with commercial software which has been on the market and successfully used by a dozen other states. All in all, the taxpayers will be out about $186 million, not to mention the months of frustration that drivers, car dealers, car owners and deputy registrars have been suffering through.
Walz deserves credit for pulling the plug on this monstrosity, and Republican leaders are supporting the decision as well. MNLARS had its origins in the Tim Pawlenty administration, but its development, or lack thereof, took place under Mark Dayton’s watch. There is no point in trying to assign blame at this point. The money has been spent, the damage has been done, now it’s time to pull the state out of this hot mess.
This has been an expensive lesson for the state. Don’t waste money trying to do yourself what someone else is already doing, and doing well. It costs a lot less to buy it from an outside source than to waste a bunch of money trying to reinvent the wheel.