The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Editorials

December 4, 2013

Cut number of state boards, commissions

Why it matters: Reports show Minnesota has many outdated and obsolete boards and commissions that cost taxpayers millions

Minnesota taxpayers could save millions of dollars if state leaders would simply do same painless housecleaning of outdated and obsolete boards and commissions that have been draining nearly $160 million a year from state coffers.

A recent report by the Star Tribune highlighted millions of dollars in government waste on boards and commissions once set up with good intentions but now useless, obsolete or just plain dormant.

The newspaper reported a nuclear waste commission that hasn’t met since 1986, an architectural board that illegally collected $800,000 in fees and dozens of boards and commissions have be unable to fill vacancies by the hundreds. The Board of Invention has never been able to fill any of its positions after being created in the 1990s.

Many of the boards and commissions were established with good intentions. We’re sure many have experts in their fields that provide timely advice on policy issues facing the Legislature. Minnesota’s government has always been responsive to the people and boards and commissions are one way for average citizens to have input on their government.

But there appears to be little management or oversight of some of these boards. They’re not evaluated regularly to determine if they are needed or if they are meeting goals.

The Legislative Auditor had conducted reviews of about 50 of these boards and commissions over the years and found various problems with accountability. One didn’t get a report of spending when it awarded a grant of about $200,000. Another lost tract of $10,000 in receipts. Even the Governor’s Residence Council didn’t keep a required list of receipts of gifts and assets of the governor’s mansion for about three years in the late 1990s.

The Legislature attempted a few years ago to evaluate the effectiveness and need for some boards and commissions. The Republican-led Legislature of 2010 organized a Sunset Commission to do away with some of the boards if there use could not be justified. The bipartisan commission reviewed 40 boards, agencies and commissions but only discontinued one – the Combative Sports Commission -- according to the Star Tribune report.

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