State officials are still struggling to respond to the onslaught of calls from people with questions about driver's licenses, tabs and vehicle registration.

The state's Driver and Vehicle Services office plans to spend $1.3 million to temporarily add staff to answer calls and e-mails, many of which stem from the problematic rollout of the Minnesota Licensing and Registration System (MNLARS).

The number of incoming e-mails and calls skyrocketed after the state launched its new system in July. They received 30,000 e-mails and 700,000 calls in February and March, Cassandra O'Hern, deputy commissioner of the Department of Public Safety, told state lawmakers Tuesday. They lost 500,000 of the calls due to people receiving a busy signal and hanging up, she said.

Even before the state rolled out the new system, staff members were only able to connect with 32 percent of the people who called for assistance, state data shows. Callers dropped the rest of the calls because the line was busy.

"It's a level of customer service that is simply unacceptable and it should not continue," O'Hern said.

Gov. Mark Dayton asked the Legislature for additional funds for call center staff as part of a $10 million request to help handle MNLARS problems. Lawmakers signed off on the money, but said it should be spent on IT work, not manning phones.

The state had already spent at least $93 million on the licensing and registration system and had 43 people responding to calls and e-mails.

O'Hern told legislators they found another way to pay for more staff: by drawing from the Highway User Tax Distribution Fund. She said they plan to hire 26 temporary staff to answer calls and e-mails for six months, and four others to supervise and train public information center staffers. They have hired eight of the 26 so far, she said.

She noted that it's not just residents who are calling with questions. State staff members are also responding to concerns from law enforcement and deputy registrars who manage the licensing offices across the state. Those calls go to the front of the queue, she said.