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Sen. David Senjum: Reforming government for better services and jobs environment

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ST.PAUL, Minn. - A couple of decades ago Governor Rudy Perpich listed the goals of the legislative session as "Jobs - Jobs - Jobs." Twenty years later, the Minnesota Republican Majority echoes the goal: "Jobs - Jobs -

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Jobs."

Next week we return to the Capitol for the 2012 Session with a significantly rosier budget situation. Through prudent and tough decisions, we were able to manage Minnesota's budget from a $5 billion deficit to a $876 million surplus. For the first time in years, heavy budget deficits will not burden legislative decision makers. We need to remain prudent and wise in any spending/taxing decision so the right directions we are on financially will not be reversed. Importantly, the cash flow (state's checking) and budget reserve (savings) accounts have been re-filled.

If the February forecast show continued positive growth, lawmakers will consider using those funds to pay back the additional $700 million borrowing against school funding - the "school shift" agreement with Gov. Dayton - that helped balance the budget.

Preliminary January updates to that forecast show continued growth, primarily due to stronger than projected individual income tax payments. While the economic growth is welcome news and the state's economists are looking to more confident consumers and stronger labor markets, some factors - like unrest in Europe - remain out of our control.

Believing the best remedy for the state budget is a thriving economy that allows hard-working families and employers to succeed, we go into the 2012 legislative session as an opportunity to improve the business climate, reduce burdensome regulations, and provide the environment for small and large businesses to grow and thrive here in Minnesota. A positive jobs environment is our number one priority.

During the legislative interim, many Republican senators met with business leaders, entrepreneurs and small business owners throughout the state in effort to find ways we can put our economy back on track. Senate Republicans, with a new year and new leadership, we have a renewed commitment to limited, sensible government and lower taxes. Seizing on opportunities for new reforms and building on successes from last session, our goal is to put Minnesota back on the path to prosperity by continuing to remove obstacles for job creators.

In 2011, Republicans prioritized reforms to promote job creation including reducing legislative earmarking, creating competitive grant programs, and streamlining the business permitting process to expedite project approvals -- thereby putting more Minnesotans back to work.

Senate Republicans sought out ways to restrain excessive government spending, and made some long-term changes. Instead of the status quo, we looked to successful private sector firms for innovative ideas on how to streamline government programs, and found better ways to fight fraud. We took away costly state mandates on our local schools to give them more local budget flexibility and invite in new educators.

Moving into 2012 we continue this approach: It is by changing the way government operates that we will improve service delivery, achieve long-term structural cost savings for Minnesota taxpayers, and again be able to provide the best services to more citizens. Government redesign is not only about efficiency; it is about getting the right services and programs to the right people.

Reforms will dominate all facets of this brief session, from education, to health care and energy. Senate Republicans want to promote innovation, investment and entrepreneurship to bring out the best about Minnesota to build long-term prosperity.

I encourage all citizens to be active participants in our democracy, to attend their upcoming precinct caucuses, to follow legislative leaders on the Senate and House websites and local newspapers and let your opinions be heard. You can follow the Senate Republicans at www.facebook.com/mnsrc.

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