Legislators meet with community members to discuss government reform

By Elizabeth Sias

Several Republican legislators met Tuesday with business owners and community leaders to listen to concerns and hear new ideas.

House Majority Leader Matt Dean discusses state government reform during the Reform 2.0 meeting Tuesday, Oct. 11, in Cambridge. Photos by Elizabeth Sias

During the meeting Oct. 11 at the MinnCo Center in Cambridge, House Majority Leader Matt Dean, Sen. Sean Nienow and Reps. Kurt Daudt and Roger Crawford discussed ways to reform state government as part of the Reform 2.0 movement.

“What we have been doing since the end of the special session is moving ahead and saying ‘where do we go next?’” Dean said. “In implementing change and moving forward in reform, we want to try to involve stakeholders all across the state. What we’ve been doing is traveling around the state and looking for really good ideas at the grassroots level, if you will.”

The legislators highlighted changes made during the 2011 legislative session, such as linking state employee pay to performance and requiring school districts to earn Literacy Incentive Aid funds through student reading test scores. They said they want to work toward making further changes aimed at reducing regulations and controlling government growth in 2012 and beyond.

Rep. Kurt Daudt writes down suggestions for reform from community members.

“We’re looking for ways to make government better—not just government bigger—how to make your jobs easier, how to make your lives better, where we can get out of the way where we don’t need to be,” Nienow said. “We’re not going to see all of those—you do, at the school, at the bank, at the businesses in town.”

Ideas from the audience for reform included streamlining the process to purchase foreclosed homes by reducing regulations, contracting certain services such as snow plowing to private companies, reducing the cost and time of obtaining permits, and reducing the state budget in some areas to offset growth in others.

Cambridge-Isanti Community Education Director Dave Maurer said he believes the relationship and funding of K-12 and higher education should be examined, allowing for better coordination and simplifying credit transfer from Post-Secondary Enrollment Options (PSEO) to college.

Dean told the story of a Department of Transportation roads maintenance employee he spoke with who said she was frustrated that her department frequently runs out of money to plow roads and lay salt in the winter and they have to hire overtime.

She shared the ideas of banking hours when it doesn’t snow as much so those hours could be pushed into the next year, and buying material when it’s cheap and housing it instead of dumping it every year.

Sen. Sean Nienow discusses government reform with community members during the Reform 2.0 meeting in Cambridge on Tuesday, Oct. 11.

“That’s a pretty good idea that I probably wouldn’t have gotten from a lobbyist in St. Paul,” Dean said. “This is a person who really cares about her job and wants to do a better job in moving forward.”

The legislators want to examine ways to make Minnesota more competitive with bordering states at retaining jobs, make it more difficult to raise taxes, and reduce the size of the government by looking at the possibility of eliminating legislative positions.

“What we’re really doing right now is doing a little bit more listening than talking because we understand that we have to do some fundamental reform work moving ahead,” Dean said. “It’s not really a partisan issue because the deficit and the structural changes of the economy really demand and drive change that is bigger than either party can solve.”

For more information, visit www.reform2.mn.