A new report shows the Metropolitan Council used significantly different projections about its finances — one bleak and one rosy — in presentations made to state and federal government officials on transit-related issues.
The Office of the Legislative Auditor noted the inconsistencies in a financial review of the regional planning agency released Wednesday.
Deputy Legislative Auditor Judy Randall said the Met Council projected a $152 million reserve as part of its pursuit of federal funding for the Southwest Light Rail project. At the same time, she said, the agency told state lawmakers it faced an $85 million deficit.
“We think it’s problematic, because it seems like they’re providing different sets of information to different audiences and different stakeholders,” Randall said. “We think they should be providing the same information to everybody, and if they’re not providing the same information to everybody then we need a better understanding of why not.”
In a letter responding to the review, Met Council regional administrator Weston Kooistra said each financial forecast is “based on clearly articulated assumptions that are appropriate and well-established to their purpose.”
Republican legislators seized on the report as another reason to overhaul the Met Council. Legislation passed last session requires quarterly financial reviews of the agency.
Rep. Linda Runbeck, R-Circle Pines, chair of the House Transportation and Regional Governance Policy Committee, accused the Met Council of deceit.
“Either they are lying to the federal government to secure funding for the Southwest Light Rail boondoggle, or they misled Minnesota taxpayers who paid for their supposed operating deficit to the tune of $70 million,” Runbeck said. “It’s time for the governor-appointed unelected bureaucrats at the Met Council to be transparent and honest with the people of Minnesota.”
In response a spokeswoman for the Met Council said the information provided to the Legislature is a two-year budget forecast while the federal government requires a 10 to 20 year projection.
“Ultimately, the federal government and the state require different perspectives on the data, which is what the Council accurately provided,” said Kate Brickman.