AUGUSTA – Maine’s new Senate majority leader knows the recent election, which gave Republicans a majority for the first time in decades, means voters have high expectations for change.

Sen. Jon Courtney, R-Springvale, is unafraid of that.

“We’ve set our expectations very high,” he said in a recent interview. “We want to change the culture of state government. We want to make sure that part of the mission of every department in state government is to be responsive to job creators.

“If we create an environment where the private sector can create jobs, and they have the stability so that they can make investments, our economic woes with government will be solved.”

Courtney, who served in Senate Republican leadership in the previous Legislature alongside presumptive Senate President Kevin Raye of Perry, said he got into politics because he was dissatisfied with the status quo.

It’s still what motivates him.

“I’m just a boy from Sanford that complained a little too much. And the next thing you know, I have the opportunity to help change the state,” he said. “I thought that we could maybe do things a little different.”

A graduate of Marshwood High School and what he called “the school of hard knocks,” Courtney grew up in Wells and joined his father’s dry-cleaning business after graduation.

Courtney said they now have three locations — in Kennebunk, Sanford and Portsmouth, N.H. — down from a high of eight.

“The economy, we’ve been hit pretty hard by it, like everybody else,” he said.

While serving in the Senate minority, Courtney said Republicans tried to offer alternatives to Democratic proposals.

On tax reform, for example, he helped craft a plan to take any increase in state revenue and use it to reduce the state’s top income tax rate from 8.5 percent to 4.5 percent.

“We came up with common-sense solutions that we put forward and just because these ideas were dismissed by the majority party, it didn’t mean that we didn’t have good ideas,” he said, adding this plan would likely re-emerge.

One of the first tasks the new lawmakers will tackle is regulatory reform, Courtney said.

“We want to hear from all the businesses; now’s the time to come and tell your story and be concise and direct and offer solutions to how to resolve these things. What’s going to make it easier for you to create jobs in Maine?” he said.

But Courtney said it’s important for Republicans to reach across the aisle when they can.

“(Democratic) senators that have been elected are just as committed to creating an environment where we can create jobs, I honestly believe that,” he said. “We need to make some major changes and we need to do it in a bipartisan way, because the people of Maine need it and they need it now. We’re struggling.”

MaineToday Media State House Writer Rebekah Metzler can be contacted at 620-7016 or at:

[email protected]