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Otto says Entenza’s campaign not focusing on auditor issues

State Auditor Rebecca Otto would like to see DFL primary race against Matt Entenza refocused on financial oversight issues rather than state and federal policy. SUBMITTED PHOTO

As her challenger Matt Entenza spends the final days leading up to the Aug. 12 DFL election primary traveling around the state trying to win votes, incumbent Minnesota State Auditor Rebecca Otto is spending that time quietly continuing to do the job for which she was elected.

Contrary to what Entenza has been saying in his campaign, however, Otto says that job does not entail protecting pensions from privatization, equalizing education funding between rural and metro school districts, or increasing local government aid to greater Minnesota communities.

“Our State Legislature and governor determine funding for our school districts and cities,” Otto said, “and we don’t have anything to do with Social Security. That’s something that happens at the federal level.”

To campaign for state auditor on those issues, Otto said, is either “very disingenuous,” or it indicates a lack of basic understanding of what the duties of the office actually entail.

“Our job is oversight,” she said. “We provide oversight of local government finances — cities, townships, counties, schools, special taxing districts.

“What we don’t get to do is hand out money… Give more LGA to cities, more funding for school districts… What we do is, we audit things, and he (Entenza) is not talking about auditing in any way. He’s talking about state policy, state funding… that’s the job of our State Legislature and our governor.”

Otto said that her priorities, if elected to a third term as state auditor, would include two things:

One is to “increase the transparency of government financial activities,” and to “investigate any allegations of theft or misuse of public funds… we follow up on that for the taxpayers. That’s a very important function.”

Two, is to begin generating what she terms “infrastructure stress reports” in communities across the state.

“The idea is identify and quantify infrastructure needs, in terms of maintenance or replacement, by community, statewide,” Otto said.

Once completed, those reports would be provided to the legislature, governor and local units of government, “to help inform their decision making process.”

“There is not currently a report out there like this,” Otto said. “I believe that’s one really big thing I could deliver that would be truly meaningful for Minnesota in the future.”

She said such reports could help avoid “piecemeal” repairs and replacements of outdated or damaged infrastructure (roads, bridges, utilities, etc.). 

“What I’m seeing in the smaller communities is that they do not have staff or resources to develop a plan (for infrastructure replacement or repair),” Otto said.

“They’re trying to get federal and state grants to get the work done that they need,” a little at a time, she added.

“To me, that’s a piecemeal approach.”

Though weather events like floods and tornadoes are inherently unpredictable and therefore difficult, if not downright impossible to plan for, “There are other things I can identify that will help inform their (individual communities’) thinking over the next decade,” Otto said.

“It’s a huge process, but I am up for it,” she added.

As the incumbent and officially endorsed DFL candidate, Otto said she believes she remains the right person for the job.

“I was named one of the 15 most influential professionals in government auditing by the Institute of Internal Auditors,” she said. “I’ve served as president of the National Association of State Auditors, and received a National Excellence in Accountability Award for my work as state auditor.

“I’ve done an excellent job on behalf of Minnesotans and I would love to serve a third term,” she said. “I know what I’m doing, I love what I’m doing and I do it well.”

Follow Detroit Lakes Newspapers reporter Vicki Gerdes on Twitter at @VickiLGerdes.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

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