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New Sen. Susan Kent Expects ‘Orderly, Focused’ Legislative Session

The freshman senator represents portions of Oakdale and all of Woodbury in the Legislature.

As a lover of history, the moment wasn’t lost on Susan Kent.

She was sworn in last week as the newest state senator Oakdale, and Kent said she was trying to “soak it all in” at the Capitol as she began her first term in District 53.

“It was awe inspiring,” Kent said.

The DFLer, who unseated Ted Lillie in the 2012 elections, said the area expects a certain amount of fiscal conservatism from its lawmakers, and plans to focus on the economy, jobs, budget and education.

The Legislature will have to address a $1.1 billion deficit this session, and Kent said lawmakers must address the shortfall without cutting back on top priorities, such education or infrastructure.

It’s not just a matter of spending or revenue, she said. “It’s both.”

“It needs to be a balanced approach and we shouldn’t leave anything off the table,” Kent said. “We need to be smart about it.”

She said she’s excited about the process and wants the state to address its finances without temporary solutions such as the delay in payments to schools.

“It’s more than a matter of semantics,” said Kent, who serves on three finance committees in the Senate.

Despite the DFL holding a majority in both chambers—and the governor’s office—Kent said the atmosphere in St. Paul isn’t going to be divisive.

“That’s not what people want,” she said.

For lawmakers, “it’s a value equation,” Kent said, and the Legislature needs to weigh its services versus taxes.

“We’ll hopefully find a sweet spot,” she said.

Aside from a few niche concerns from residents, constituents generally say they want the focus to be on the economy, Kent said.

“That’s going to be my first priority,” she said.

But she doesn’t want to see the state hurt schools in the process. Kent said Minnesota must maintain a strong “human capital pipeline” and continue to produce skilled workers that attract Fortune 500 companies.

“Education has been key to our success for so long,” said Kent, who serves on the state Senate’s Education and Higher Education and Workforce Development committees. “We have that brand.”

Kent said she expects 2013 to be an “orderly, focused” session, and added that she will have an open-door policy for constituents.

“I want to represent this district,” she said.

 

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