Gov. Mark Dayton named his picks to head the state's tax collection and financial regulatory agencies Wednesday, his first appointments since taking the oath of office earlier this week.
Former tax attorney Myron Frans will become revenue commissioner this spring, after transitioning out of his job as president of a company that manufactures forensic microscopes. Current commissioner Dan Salomone will continue to lead the agency until then, with Frans acting as a part-time volunteer adviser.
The state Revenue Department is responsible for enforcing Minnesota's tax code and presenting up-to-date revenue projections.
Dayton announced that attorney and DFL activist Michael Rothman will lead the Minnesota Department of Commerce, responsible for regulating a broad swath of financial institutions that include state-chartered banks. Rothman is a shareholder with Winthrop & Weinstine in Minneapolis, where he specializes in insurance, financial services and various election-related law.
Rothman also aided in Dayton's recount and sits on the DFL executive committee, a position he will give up when he becomes commissioner.
Both men step into their respective departments at crucial moments.
Republicans have taken a hard line against tax increases, but may be looking for revenue opportunities in the coming months after identifying all possible spending cuts. Dayton, meanwhile, hopes to continue advocating for his plan to raise taxes on the wealthiest Minnesotans.
Ensuring people pay their taxes and calculating projected revenue from any new taxes will fall on the revenue commissioner. Frans supports Dayton's plan but demurred on whether the state needs more revenue.
"We have to really examine the spending needs to determine whether the revenue stream we have is structurally sufficient," Frans said.
Frans hopes to streamline the state's tax system to ease the compliance burden on small businesses. "We can make the system more efficient so that small businesses don't have to expend a lot of time on tax compliance," he said.
At Commerce, Rothman enters an agency that has been criticized in recent years for being a passive regulator. The department is tasked with monitoring everything from insurance fraud to risky mortgages.
"It would be good for consumers if there was a significant change in direction in the department," said professor Prentiss Cox, a former assistant attorney general who now teaches at the University of Minnesota Law School.
Rothman said he has closely followed reports about the agency and plans to conduct an internal review to address problems.
"It's a high priority of mine to make sure that on my watch we will be vigilant and ... that the safety and soundness of our institutions are maintained and we protect the rights of consumers," Rothman said.
Eric Roper • 612-673-1732