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IT officials want more funding to fix MNLARS

ST. PAUL — Minnesota's computer system that handles vehicle registrations and titles is a mess.

To fix it, state information technology officials say they need $43 million — and some of it right away.

The system, known as MNLARS, has already cost $93 million and was supposed to work.

Many lawmakers are angered by it all, and some have vowed that heads must roll before they approve any more money.

But no easy alternatives have surfaced. Reverting to the old system, which dates back to the 1980s, might take a year — if it's even possible — officials have said, and there is no "off-the-shelf" software for such a system.

The IT department's request that at least some money be approved by March 1 means this will have to be among the first things the Legislature deals with when it convenes Tuesday, Feb. 20.

Adding tension to the situation: The same departments that rolled out MNLARS — MNIT and the Department of Public Safety — are working against an October deadline to get a new driver's license program working to meet ­federally required "Real ID" security standards.

And there's a political element. Even thought Gov. Mark Dayton isn't running for re-election, Republicans might try to use the MNLARS troubles to score points during the election season. The program began under Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty, but the bulk of the work has been under Dayton's eight-year watch. Thus far, Republicans have been far more critical of IT officials than Democrats.

But the facts remain: The system isn't working the way it should, and regular Minnesotans continue to be inconvenienced, regardless of their party affiliations.

The St. Paul Pioneer Press is a media partner with Forum News Service