MnDOT example is one of many

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 23, 2003

The news that the Minnesota Department of Transportation routinely ignored rules about awarding consulting contracts, and that it likely wasted millions with its practices, is another argument in favor of Gov. Tim Pawlenty's approach to the budget. Seeing taxpayer money handled with such disregard is enough to make residents all the more supportive of spending cuts instead of tax increases to fix the state's deficit.

It's only been weeks since we learned that the Ventura administration similarly went around a moratorium on new contracts to hire a long list of questionable consultants. If this is the way the state spends money, it's hard to feel sorry for these departments when the axe comes down on their budgets.

At MnDOT, administrators ignored rules that require public bidding for contracts, illegally awarded contracts before they were approved or funded, and gave preference to those it worked with in the past, despite rules that require competition.

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More and more, the budget crisis is looking like the opportunity Pawlenty says it is. State government needs to learn how to be frugal with taxpayer money, and there's nothing like a deficit to make everybody pinch their pennies a little harder.

Realistically, the $4.5 billion budget hole can't be filled by cutting waste alone; there will still need to be plenty of painful cuts. We've already seen that in Pawlenty's first budget proposal. However, the state apparently has more fat to cut than many people probably assumed.