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Emmer’s ‘$100,000 waiter’ comments still stirs the political pot

ALSO: An “F” for anti-Emmer ad, a $40 “investment,” and a St. Paul bar raid.

If Tom Emmer’s latest idea is to let waiters and waitresses keep their first $20,000 in tips tax-free, out of, you know, recognition of the impact the recession has had on the restaurant business, we can only begin to wonder what largesse he’ll show the thousands of un- to under-employed construction workers.

 The Strib’s Rachel Stassen-Berger catches up with Emmer still in full back-fill mode after his “$100,000 waiter” gaffe. She writes: “A day before he was to hold a town hall with servers at a Roseville restaurant, Emmer on Tuesday proposed that waiters and waitresses be allowed to keep the first $20,000 of their tips tax free. The average income for servers in Minnesota is $19,000. ‘They should not have to report their tips’, Emmer said. ‘Tips should not be taxed. That’s my belief.’ The idea would cost the state about $17 million, the Emmer campaign estimates. State revenue officials said they were unable to calculate the cost of such a proposal because they do not track tips and wages separately.” Whatever happened to good old Republicans admonishing people to start living within their means and stopping waiting for government support?

Over at the PiPress, Jason Hoppin works the angle of how the Democrats are using Emmer’s for a cease-fire in their attacks on each other. Emmer, of course, is very upset at … the media. Hoppin reports: “The issue also seemed to bring simmering tensions between Emmer and reporters to a boil. Emmer’s campaign fuses optimism for the future with anger at the reach of government, and he has faced tough questions over the specifics of his plans for scaling down state government.” Further: “Emmer has complained that his comments are being misrepresented. He recently told the Republican Jewish Coalition that the press is ‘not reporting truthfully and honestly and accurately.’ An Emmer fundraising letter sent Tuesday said, ‘The adage “don’t believe everything you read in the newspaper” has never been more true’.” But, sir, which story exactly is “the truth”?

Tom Scheck’s MPR story adds that when it comes to separating waiters’ tips from salary, “Revenue officials also said it would be difficult, but not impossible, to administer Emmer’s plan,”  which kind of sounds like a jobs program for  government employees, i.e., a “win-win.”

Emmer gets a modest boost from KSTP’s Tom Hauser, who uses his “Truth Test” to grade the new TV ad by anti-Emmer, union-driven Alliance for a Better Minnesota an “F” for accuracy. Hauser reiterates the station’s criteria for judgment, noting that they judge based on the specificity of details in the ad. But really, if  Emmer’s voting against the  $400 million-plus tax increase on the  top earners didn’t precisely serve the interests of “CEOs and corporate interests” it sure was — indirectly — in the spirit of things.                                    

Shades of Dickens’ “Little Dorrit.” Good story from Chris Serres in the Strib on two DFL legislators pushing to restrain debt collectors and the ability to jail debtors for failing to pony up. The piece follows on the Strib’s “Hounded” series, and the FTC’s work in the wake of Minnesota AG Lori Swanson crackdown last year on a St.Louis Park collection operation. “A Federal Trade Commission (FTC) report issued Monday described problems in the debt collection business and called on states to fix many of them. The two Minnesota legislators, who saw their earlier debt collection bill die in the last session for lack of support, said the FTC has strengthened the case for changing the law. ‘This should help galvanize public support for passing legislation,” [Rep. Ron] Latz said. ‘Anyone in Minnesota might have to deal with this, and they might be surprised there is an arrest warrant for something they didn’t realize existed.’ “

Tuesday afternoon Politico reported that ex-state Republican chairman Ron Carey had, um, departed, as Michele Bachmann’s chief of staff, the fifth such departure in four years. “The news of Carey’s departure came just hours after Zandra Wolcott, Bachmann’s top fundraiser, said she was leaving her post at the campaign, offering only a vague explanation for the move. ‘I am leaving the campaign, said Wolcott, a successful Minnesota operative who was a lead consultant for President George W. Bush’s campaign in the state. ‘It’s just time to move on,’ she told POLITICO. ‘I have other things to do here in Minnesota.’ “

The resolutely anti-Bachmann blog,, speculates that the Wolcott finance director may be leaving because of a possible investigation into one of her contributors.

Got a couple of $20 bills languishing in your 401(k)? Get those babies out working for you, dude! A KARE-TV story by Rena Sarigianopoulos tells of the St. Paul guy, Dick Warwick, who won $766,000 out of a slot machine at Mystic Lake. “Warwick had planned to retire in the next six months. Hitting the jackpot will make the transition a little smoother.  He also plans to use the money to help pay for the two kids he still has in college. ‘We have an old Victorian house that I didn’t think we were ever going to finish and maybe now we will,’ said [his wife] Martha. All the planning, well, that’s for another day. This day is just about enjoying the moment. ‘Two twenties won me $766,000 — an amazing thing,’ said Warwick.”

All the indisputable facts in the Strib’s editorial (titled “State’s payment delays spread pain”) sets you up to expect a long-overdue excoriation of Gov. Pawlenty’s careerist-oriented style of financial management. The Strib writes: “One indication of the toll the state’s troubles are taking elsewhere was described Monday to the Legislative Advisory Commission. When a few months ago the state scanned all 343 school districts for positive fund balances, intending to delay payments to those in the black, the balances totaled $422 million. Now they’re down to less than $90 million. More districts this year may be forced into short-term borrowing themselves while waiting for state payments to arrive.” It then adds: “In Pawlenty’s eyes, the highest cost associated with more short-term borrowing may be political. Having to go to Wall Street to be able to write checks dents the national image he has tried to cultivate as a conservative, fiscally prudent government CEO.” But instead of dropping something, you know, declarative, the piece tip-toes away saying only: “State government’s financial house is not in good order. When Pawlenty’s successor takes office in January, a big cleanup job will be waiting.” Uh … that is not news or opinion.

It has not been a good year for once high-profile St. Paul businessman, George Wozniak. The owner of Hobbit Travel, until it cratered last December, barely staved off a raid on his alcohol supply at Gabe’s in the Park, the popular Como-area restaurant he’s owned for several years. Gita Sitamariah’s PiPress story wonders how Wozniak even got the booze he had since he was so far behind in taxes. “Gabe’s had been on the Revenue Department’s posting of tax delinquencies for liquor, wine and beer sales since February. As a result, distributors and wholesalers were subject to fines if they sold or delivered new products to the business. It was also illegal for the restaurant to buy alcoholic beverages from another retail licensee for the purpose of resale.” Despite the raid, Gabe’s is open … and that I guess includes Happy Hour.

A year late … but U2 is coming to the Twin Cities next July 23. All the reports are pretty much the same, the Strib story by Chris Riemenschneider, says: “Previously scheduled midway through the North American jaunt on June 27, Minneapolis will now be the final show on that leg of the tour,” which usually means either one of two things: (1) The band is completely exhausted and desperately wants to catch the plane home, or (2), they are determined to sign out with one hellacious bang. At the prices they’re charging, hope for the latter.