What does the State Auditor do anyway?
The Office of the State Auditor oversees the $20+ billion spent annually by local governments in Minnesota to ensure those funds are used properly, efficiently, and effectively to serve the interests of Minnesotans. Stated otherwise, the State Auditor is responsible for making sure that local governments (a) use taxpayer dollars for the purposes intended by law, (b) maintain the highest standards of financial responsibility and accountability, and (c) have the data, tools, and advice necessary to make decisions that maximize the value and services Minnesotans receive from their taxpayer dollars.
The State Auditor has oversight responsibility for all units of local government, including cities, counties, and townships; school districts; housing and redevelopment authorities, soil and water conservation districts, and more. Furthermore, the State Auditor serves on the State Executive Council, State Board of Investment, Land Exchange Board, Minnesota Housing Finance Agency, Public Employees Retirement Association, and Rural Finance Authority Board.
What does all this mean? The work of the Auditor's Office touches every individual living in Minnesota and has a nexus to almost every substantive area of policy that impacts the health, wealth, environment, and quality-of-life of our residents and communities.
My Approach & Positions
Making sure that taxpayer dollars are used efficiently and effectively involves more than just sitting around and waiting for money to be spent to make sure it was spent appropriately. It's also about more than just providing local governments with tools and best practices for handling cash and balancing their books. As State Auditor, I will work proactively and in partnership with local governments to provide the tools, guidance, and best practices needed to ensure that their financial decisions are also best aligned with their programmatic goals, values, and mandates.
Support Fiscal Integrity for Local Governments
Our counties, cities, and townships throughout Minnesota are struggling to provide all the services their residents expect, especially given inadequate funding from the State in local government assistance. Property tax bases are eroding, and residents are left with increasing property taxes. Many parts of Greater Minnesota are also struggling with the loss of local jobs, wealth, and population. That means too few are left to pay the property taxes for over-burdened cities that are trying to maintain the roads and bridges and services their residents expect.
As State Auditor, I will work with counties, cities, and townships to make sure they have the funding and support they need to meet their residents' expectations in a fiscally-responsible way. Whether it's maintaining roads and bridges and sewer lines to prevent more costly repairs in the future or testifying in front of the legislature alongside mayors, we'll work to get the job done.
Coordinate & Invest in Problem-Solving
- Cities, counties, and schools are all dealing with the overwhelming issues surrounding mental and chemical health, but the challenges are too complex for any one jurisdiction to solve on their own. When someone experiencing a mental health crisis is brought to jail instead of to a treatment center, it means taxpayer dollars are being spent both inefficiently and ineffectively. When a parent has nowhere to bring their child for addiction treatment, it means government doesn't have or isn't making the financial investments its residents need.
- Addressing these challenges requires increasing investments in school nurses and counselors, building partnerships between schools and county housing services, and getting more social workers and mental health professionals on patrol with law enforcement officers. It also means building more treatment centers for mental and chemical health so people have a bed available when they need it.
- Balancing the books is not enough to address complex issues like mental and chemical health. As State Auditor, I will bring a problem-solving approach to investment and use of public funds. We can fix broken systems of services by collaborating and coordinating across across every level of government, bringing together city, county, and school resources, along with state and federal funds, to address complex challenges intentionally, deliberately, and with a focus on alleviating the root causes of the problem, not just spending millions of dollars on band-aid solutions.
Address Public Spending & Racial Inequity
- When 40 percent of our prisoners are people of color or Indigenous people, it means our government is not serving its residents equitably. When students of color in Minnesota have one of the largest achievement gaps in the country, it means we are not using public dollars effectively to serve all Minnesotans. When people of color do not have the same access as white Minnesotans to housing, jobs, financing, and healthcare, it is not merely the result of there not being enough resources to go around—it is the result of centuries of intentional decision-making to underinvest and underserve specific communities on the basis of color and race.
- As State Auditor, I will approach the tools, guidance, and decisions around the spending of public dollars as fundamental factors and choices that contribute to equity.