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Gov. Pete Ricketts outlined a conservative strategy to reduce the size and scope of government, partly by centering entitlement decisions in the states, during an address this week at Hillsdale College in Michigan.

Other key elements in his plan include making government more efficient by using a business model to help institute change while recognizing and supporting the vital role played by volunteer organizations in assisting people with needs.

The address, delivered on Monday during the college's "markets and policy" seminar series, appeared to provide the most focused and comprehensive look at the governor's conservative political philosophy and strategy since he was elected three years ago.

Ricketts said more responsibility for managing and directing entitlement programs should be taken out of Washington and "pushed down" to the states.

Under his administration, the governor said, reforms already have been instituted in managing unemployment benefits and food stamp support, providing assistance to "help people get a job (and) help families take care of themselves" as part of the process of receiving benefits.

"The goal is to help people get a job," Ricketts said in outlining reforms in the unemployment benefits program that are designed to turn it into "a re-employment program."

Families receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) food stamp benefits are being provided assistance in acquiring better jobs that allow them to feed their families while having more time together as a family, the governor said.

Ricketts said he and conservative state senators blocked proposed expansion of Medicaid in Nebraska because addition of "able-bodied single adults" could result in less funding support for children, the elderly and the disabled.

When conservatives are governing, Ricketts told the Hillsdale audience, it is vitally important that "they make sure government runs really, really well."

And he is focusing in Nebraska on "running it more like a business," delivering improved service at less cost, the governor said.

"Our goal is operational excellence," Ricketts said.

Voluntary organizations are "fundamental and critical," he said, working outside of government to "help us provide for people who need our help with love."

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