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Gov candidates: Yes to more gambling and Vikings stadium

ALSO: Guilty until proven innocent? And more Target news, more Hecker news and more tax rate debate.

At the risk of being accused of the rankest, foulest kind of cynicism, you gotta wonder if the state’s three gubernatorial candidates would have all endorsed various ideas for public financing of a new Vikings stadium if Brett Favre had not shown up in town last week. Nevertheless, there they all were in Brooklyn Park Wednesday saying “aye” to taxpayer money for Zygi Wilf. Baird Helgeson writes in the Strib: “DFLer Mark Dayton said he would support a $1 billion bonding bill to kick-start the state’s lagging construction industry and create road and building projects of lasting benefit to Minnesotans. Independence Party candidate Tom Horner touted his $400 million borrowing proposal, which he would use for roads, bridges and expanded regional convention centers. Republican Tom Emmer, who has voted against all six borrowing bills in his term as a legislator, offered no dollar amount, but said he would consider borrowing for projects with regional and statewide significance.”

The other news from the debate, likely related, is that all three gentlemen are in favor of expanding gambling for state revenue purposes. MPR’s Tom Scheck reports: “But the backing of a governor doesn’t always guarantee success. In 2005, Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Republicans in the Minnesota House spent heavy political capital on a bid to authorize slot machines at the state’s horse track in Shakopee. But a wide variety of groups heavily opposed the effort. The religious right opposed it on moral grounds. The Native American tribes, who donate heavily to the DFL Party and DFL candidates, opposed it to maintain the status quo. ‘The tribes aren’t going to roll over on this,’ said John McCarthy, executive director of the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association.” As you can imagine, Dick Day and the Racino crowd are thrilled by the news.

Fox9’s Maury Glover files a report from Cold Spring on the latest  turn in the Jacob Wetterling story. Still nothing on all that dirt dug up and activity earlier this summer, but “the person of interest” in the case, the 54-year-old neighbor of the Wetterlings, has a new job as a music teacher in nearby St. Boniface. Glover reports: “For the past 32 years, the man whose family farm was searched in connection to Wetterling’s disappearance, has taught sixth grade band at district schools. Due to layoffs, the district moved him to St. Boniface. After three days of digging at the family farm, police still call the 54-year-old man a person of interest.”

In the vein of “guilty until proven innocent,” KSTP runs a story on a new weekly tabloid paper, “Busted,” which is basically just police mug shots of guys like … well, Mankato’s mayor and anyone else dragged in by the cops … long before they have their day in court.  KSTP says: “The St. Paul Police Department says fear of embarrassment may stop people from committing crimes, but it’s tough to prove. Others say it only entertains those who pick up the publication. Because mug shots are public record, Busted is legal. The Twin Cities is one of eight metro areas nationwide where the paper is sold for $1. 8,500 copies are places on Twin Cities store shelves every week.”

WCCO-TV’s consumer unit, with a Paula Engelking byline, runs an interesting tale of Target — you know, the big retailer of the MN Forward-Emmer-gay marriage … oh, never mind, short-shrifting shoppers on manufacturer coupons, and claiming to have never heard of a problem that has been brought to their attention all over the country. The station followed a woman on Tuesday when she was shorted, notified Target and then followed her again Wednesday: “Just like on Tuesday, [Amy] Gunderson got short-changed at the checkout. ‘At Target, I should have gotten $5 off, and I got $2.04 off,’ said Gunderson. ‘I would have liked to have thought it would be fixed, but I’m not surprised it’s not. I think it’s a big fix. I don’t think it’s a little fix. I think it’s a big fix.’ We wanted to make sure the problem wasn’t with the coupon. We went with Gunderson to Rainbow and Cub Foods. At both stores, we were able to get the full $5 off. Gunderson said she’s been telling Target about the problem since June.”

News that self-consciously trendy clothing store, Abercrombie & Fitch, will be closing 110 stores gets some amusing snark from Jen Boyles in City Pages. She writes, “At this point, we don’t know if 20 of the A&F-run stores in Minnesota will continue blaring bad techno at deafening levels for their faux-woodsy customers or close their doors forever — a frightening prospect for new high school freshmen everywhere (but not so much their parents and their wallets). While we’re certainly never happy to hear of jobs lost, perhaps employees and customers alike will use the time they’d usually spend shopping for four different colors of the same style of crewneck to  — here’s a novel idea — search out a style of their own.” A what? “A style of their own”? And get laughed at for dressing like a dork or weirdo?

Let’s say you’re broke. Down to less than nothing. And let’s say you’ve still got a big stack of bills. Oh hell, let’s just pick a number … like three-quarters of a billion dollars. So someone asking you how it is you can still do the fine dining thing at Oceanaire and Manny’s and drive an Escalade and maintain memberships at three country clubs seems kind of a reasonable question. Not if you’re Denny Hecker, of course. In the latest episode, Hecker’s bankruptcy receiver, Russell Seaver, is down to demanding to see receipts from Hecker’s meals at the two restaurants just mentioned. Dave Phelps’ Strib story goes on: “The attorney for Seaver, Matthew Burton, told [Judge] Kressel that Hecker still has memberships at the Lafayette, Wayzata and Spring Hill country clubs, has been driving luxury vehicles, including the Escalade, and has been using prepaid gift cards. Seaver wants copies of bills for meals at Manny’s and Oceanaire, and maintenance and utility bills for Hecker’s Medina home called Northridge. Seaver also wants details on a $30,000 insurance refund that Hecker obtained and cashed before the receiver knew about it. Seaver wants to know whether or not it’s the same $30,000 subsequently turned over to him. ‘This is a cat-and-mouse game on a grand scale,’ Burton told Kressel.” Have I already said how much we’ll miss Hecker when this is over?
“Republican activist and writer” Craig Westover, pops up in a Strib commentary arguing against Mark Dayton’s “tax on productivity.”  He writes: “[T]ax fairness is a moral argument, not an economic one. Dayton’s ‘tax the rich’ plan collides with the economic reality that ‘ought’ doesn’t necessarily imply ‘can.’ We ought to have a fair tax system, but can taxing the rich actually lead to tax fairness? It cannot.” He then goes on to say — stop me if you’ve heard this before — “The logical economic consequence of Dayton’s higher taxes on productivity is less productivity. Less productivity equates to less taxable activity. The higher and narrower the tax rate, the more dampening is the effect on the business climate and economic development, and the less business expansion there is translates into fewer jobs created and more jobs lost.” Next time I’d like to read Westover, or Tom Emmer’s detailed, empathetic description of what goes into those “worker productivity” statistics we hear about so often. You know, where stagnant or lower wages and benefits and longer hours translates to, hallelujah!, the American Dream!    

Well, it was worth a shot. Gov. Pawlenty and St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman had no luck in Dearborn, Mich., Wednesday persuading Ford to keep the Highland Ranger assembly plant open. Says Chao Xiong in the Strib: “Pawlenty and Coleman said Ford officials stressed their need to aggregate production sites as well as to run plants that can operate around-the-clock, quickly switching between manufacturing different vehicle models in response to market demand. The 125-acre plant on Ford Parkway in St. Paul is outfitted for making just one model of truck — the Ranger — that is fast losing popularity. Renovating the aging building would be costly, and the equipment is outdated. The Ranger pickup, a light-duty truck that hasn’t been redesigned in years, is slated to end its U.S. run when the plant closes in 2011.”

MinnPost’s Doug Grow built some of the specific inducements Coleman and Pawlenty offered into his story. He wrote: “The package that the delegation took to [Ford] was built around legislation passed last session that would give Ford millions of dollars in tax breaks and incentives if improvements were made on the plant. Additionally, there would be tax credits given to the company for a portion of the wages currently paid to the plant’s 750 employees. St. Paul chipped in with the concept of using the city’s Port Authority to purchase the plant and then lease it back to the company. The theory behind that incentive is that Ford would be able to use the cash from the sale to make renovations in the plant.”

Eric Roper contributes a Michele Bachmann-on-the-campaign-bus item to the Strib’s “Hot Dish Politics” blog. The news is she’s adopted a new style of PAC to push Tea Party-style reform. This part (hello, Craig Westover) is particularly good: “She added that her leadership PAC will target ‘constitutional conservatives who want to roll back spending, who want to roll back tax increases and who want to create a more job-friendly climate economically in our country.’ ” Oh, and “Aside from a brief exchange with reporters aboard the bus, the first leg of Bachmann’s tour of the district stuck to a pretty tight script. Reporters were briefly shuffled in to watch her make cookies in Woodbury and speak with manufacturing plant workers in Hugo. In an e-mail pitch to supporters Wednesday, Bachmann noted that ‘fueling this bus tour will be expensive’ and asked them to help her raise $48,000 in the next two days.”

Whoa! A 0.24 on a Saturday afternoon? With an open bottle of vodka sitting next to you? That Mankato-Mayor-DUI-on-394 story gets worse for Hizzoner. Fox9 reports: “Officers also say Brady had an open bottle of vodka in his car when was arrested along Interstate 394. They took him to detox before the Mayor caught a flight to China on Monday, where he is conducting city business. [Golden Valley City Attorney Frank] Rondoni says officers at the scene found Brady to be slurring to the point they thought he was speaking a different language.”

The Business Journal runs a poll (unscientific, you know) asking its readers if they favor repealing the estate tax. The one that also bears down so onerously on our most productive citizens. At first light, it was running 64 percent in favor, 31 percent against and 5 percent undecided.