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Campaign Notebook: Family of 4 would pay $85 more

ST. PAUL - The Revenue Department says the average Minnesotan would pay more for a proposed sales tax increase than proponents claim.

Paul Wilson, Revenue Department Tax Research Division director, estimates that the average added cost for Minnesotans ranging from single people to families would be $60 a year, about $8 more than the Vote Yes campaign says. And an average family of four would pay $85 more on their purchases, he said.

Wilson said his figures only show what Minnesotans would pay directly, but it is impossible to figure how much more people would pay due to businesses passing on higher sales taxes they would be charged.

The proposal on Tuesday's ballot would increase the sales tax 0.375 percent for 25 years by amending the state constitution. Proceeds from the increased tax would go to outdoors and arts programs.

About $270 million would come in the first year, probably increasing each year as prices and spending rise.

In the meantime, notable sportsmen including Bud Grant, are traveling the state supporting the amendment. Opponents are touting newspaper editorials that oppose the amendment.

Joe popular

Joe the plumber may rank right behind Sarah Palin as a McCain campaign attention-grabber.

Bumper stickers featuring the famous pipeman are popular with McCain supporters: "I'm voting with Joe the plumber" and "Working Joes for McCain" are two.

And on Tuesday, McCain's Minnesota campaign set up a conference call so reporters could hear pro-John McCain testimony from people considered regular Joes. They are people who own their own businesses.

Debating debates

Challengers to Supreme Court justices Lorie Gildea and Paul Anderson want to face the incumbents in a public debate, but time is running out before Tuesday's election.

An organization called Vote4JudgesMN tried to set one up this week, but the incumbents reportedly said they could not attend. So the organizer, Heather Robins, offered several times for debates on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. At last report, Robins was awaiting answers to her newest request.

Gildea faces a contest from Deborah Hedlund. Tim Tinglestad is challenging Anderson.

'Stevens should quit'

Sen. Norm Coleman said his Republican colleague Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska should step down after he was found guilty of concealing gifts.

"He's been tried and convicted. That's the standard I've set before with colleagues who have pled guilty, been convicted," Coleman told reporters Tuesday. "I think that's what he should do."

A jury Monday convicted Stevens of attempting to hide $250,000 in home improvements and gifts he received from an oil contractor.

Coleman said the Stevens conviction should not affect his own re-election and that he already returned campaign contributions he received from Stevens' political committee.

"Sure, the other side will try to find some time that I was in the same room with Sen. Stevens," Coleman said, adding he has opposed Stevens on key issues including oil drilling in Alaska.

'Challenge' for McCain

John McCain's top Minnesota cheerleader said it appears less likely the Arizona Republican can win the state in Tuesday's presidential election.

"That's a challenge," Gov. Tim Pawlenty said Tuesday. "We still are hopeful that Sen. McCain can make a comeback, but it looks like Sen. Obama has a pretty good advantage in Minnesota right now."

Pawlenty, who serves as national co-chairman of McCain's campaign, said polls show Democrat Barack Obama ahead in the state.

Coming up

Former President Bill Clinton speaks to a Minneapolis Convention Center rally for Barack Obama and Al Franken Thursday night. Doors open to the public at 7 p.m., with a pre-program starting a half hour later. The campaigns did not announce when Clinton would speak. Tickets are not required for the event.

State Capitol reporter Scott Wente contributed to this report.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.