Newspaper article

Otto Suspects Political Motivations Behind Bill Undercutting State Auditor's Office

Newspaper article

Otto Suspects Political Motivations Behind Bill Undercutting State Auditor's Office

Article excerpt

Minnesota State Auditor Rebecca Otto suspects political motivations -- by members of her own party -- led to a last-minute legislative proposal to allow counties to hire private companies to do the audits her office performs.

Otto, a Democrat serving her third term as state auditor, said Republicans have pushed for years to allow county governments to seek audits from private companies instead of through the state auditor's office, but it was an 11th hour agreement between House Republicans and Democrats who control the Senate that moved the provision through.

Otto alienated some members of her own party on the Iron Range last year when she voted against approving a handful of mining leases, and then sent out a fundraising appeal mentioning the vote. Otto took the vote as a member of the state's Executive Council, which is comprised of statewide officers and is tasked with approving mineral leases. Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk and DFL Sen. Tom Saxhaug, author of the state government bill that included the auditor provision, both hail from the Iron Range.

"I think it's a combination of several different things, but Saxhaug is from up there, Bakk is from up there, and there were people who should have known this was happening and were not told," Otto told MinnPost. "Sometimes when people get sleep deprived they make very poor decisions. It didn't get properly heard. They've got a chance to do this over; they've got a chance to fix it. I'm hopeful."

Saxhaug said the move wasn't politically motivated. "I came out of private business and I also served on county boards before I came to the state Legislature, and I understand what's going on and I'm always in support of my counties and school boards and school districts being more efficient," he said, adding that school boards and cities can already seek private audits.

DFL Gov. Mark Dayton hasn't said if he will veto the state government budget bill, but he promised to fix the language relating to state audits in an upcoming special session, saying he wanted to make that a pre-condition of any session overtime. Dayton previously vetoed a similar measure when Republicans controlled both chambers of the Legislature. …

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