Auditor using tax money to combat legislators

By Rep. Jim Nash

You’d think that a piece of bipartisan legislation that passed the Minnesota Senate and House of Representatives, and was signed into law by Governor Dayton would, by definition, be an example of compromise on an issue that saves taxpayers money, right? You might even argue that everyone should be mostly happy with the outcome. Unfortunately, State Auditor Rebecca Otto cannot accept the changes to county audits, and is wasting over $107,000 of taxpayer money just to decide if she wants to sue the Legislature.

To give some quick background, the new legislation, which the governor signed in May, gives Minnesota counties the ability to use certified public accounting (CPA) firms to conduct audits. These firms would still adhere to the standards set by the auditor’s office but could save a county a significant sum of money for the same service.

Before the law’s enactment, 28 of our counties had the ability to hire CPA firms to perform audits but the remaining counties could not. Shouldn’t all of our counties have the same cost-saving, budget-friendly option? In fact, in testimony we heard in committee, some counties could save upwards of $20,000 on audit fees by letting private firms compete for their business and produce the same level of audit.

The auditor claims that there is no evidence to show that the new law will save counties money. If that’s the case, why not at least give counties the option to find competitive bids for this service. If the Office of the State Auditor (OSA) provides the best rate for counties, I expect they would choose the OSA to perform audits. Clearly, we know that isn’t the case which is why Auditor Otto fears many counties will opt for a CPA firm that provides the same service with less stress on local tax revenue.

Auditor Otto doesn’t agree with this bipartisan law, and has decided to spend over $107,000 of your taxes to assess whether she should sue the legislature. Using the taxes of Minnesota families to sue the legislature for a bipartisan bill is wasteful, negligent, and unnecessary. Just this week, the auditor claimed that the OSA’s core function is to safeguard taxpayers. Perhaps Auditor Otto should remind herself of that mission before suing the Legislature on your dime.

Because the legislature defines the duties of the OSA, I have a difficult time understanding why Auditor Otto continues to use the state’s time and funds to combat legislators from both parties. If the auditor truly values Minnesota taxpayers, she’ll accept these small changes and get back to the work she was elected to do.

Rep. Jim Nash is a Republican representing District 47A in the Minnesota House of Representatives.