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Republicans target taxes, emphasize session work

Senate Majority Leader David Senjem, R-Rochester, and Sen. John Carlson, R-Bemidji, discuss the recently finished legislative session during a press conference Monday afternoon in Bemidji. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI - Republicans are citing jobs and the economy as their top issues going into this fall's elections.

Minnesota was rated 44th in the country by the Tax Foundation in terms of business climate.

"You know you've got some work to do" when that happens, said Senate Majority Leader David Senjem, R-Rochester, during a Monday afternoon press conference in Bemidji.

Senjem said Minnesota needs to be competitive nationally and internationally when it comes to taxation and also provide a prepared workforce through strong K-12 programming and higher education.

Senjem appeared with Sen. John Carlson, R-Bemidji, as they recapped the recently finished legislative session and looked forward to the general election this fall.

Carlson restated his support and dedication to the Minnesota Accountable Government Innovation and Collaboration (MAGIC) Act.

The act, a reform proposal allowing counties more ability to initiate reforms and programs, easily passed the Senate 62-1 last May. But then it went to the House, where it didn't go beyond committee.

The act was presented full strength in the Senate, but was watered down, Carlson said, as he made it more palatable to House members and Gov. Mark Dayton. Still, it never found its way out of the House Ways and Means Committee.

"For me, if I'm fortunate enough to get re-elected, my plan is to go back over the MAGIC Act," Carlson said, adding he will bring it forward in its full strength.

Senjem, who has been traveling throughout the state, said Republicans are out to spread the message that it accomplished its goals.

"We believe the state of Minnesota is better off today than it was prior to 2011 under DFL majorities," he said.

Republicans came in to the majority in 2010, facing a $6.2 billion deficit and leave now, following year after year of deficits, with a $1.2 billion surplus, Senjem said.

"This is a strong, strong swing," he said. "We're very proud to say we're part of that swing."

There now are more than 88,000 more jobs than there were during the depths of the recession, he noted.

"Things are going in the right direction," Senjem said.

He and Carlson noted several disappointments of the past session, focusing mainly on the Dayton's vetoes of the tax bill and LIFO, or last-in, last-out, through which school districts would not have to cut personnel solely on tenure and could take into account performance.

Carlson highlighted as a success the work that was done to streamline the environmental permitting process. He said that work had a direct benefit to this area as Norbord General Manager Jack Wallingford has told him that without the efficiency bill, he would have missed out on a $500 million opportunity that would have went to another plant.

"It could have potentially caused a shutdown of that facility," Carlson said. "That was how big that was."