ST. PAUL -- Tom Emmer's assertion that restaurant servers may make $100,000 a year provided politicians, commentators and political reporters plenty to chew on in recent days.
His comment came as he called for a law change to lower the minimum wage for workers who receive tips. The tip issue regularly surfaces at the Legislature, but the $100,000 salary claim is new, and especially newsworthy coming from Minnesota's chief Republican governor candidate.
Most other governor candidates immediately criticized Emmer, easily the most conservative major candidate in the field.
DFL hopeful Matt Entenza, for instance, quickly decided to "help" Emmer "by setting up a place where he can get some tips to help him figure out what Minnesotans need in these tough times, because surely it isn't lower wages."
Entenza said his campaign will compile the tips on its Web site and hand them over to Emmer.
Emmer himself already took one tip: He plans to meet with servers, probably none earning $100,000, Wednesday in a Roseville Mexican restaurant.
During a Moorhead visit, Emmer said Fargo has may more eating places in part because North Dakota laws are similar to those he wants, which makes it less costly for restaurants to make money because they would be able to pay servers less than minimum wage.
In response to Emmer's call to lower the minimum wage on jobs involving tips, DFL hopeful Margaret Anderson Kelliher suggested increasing the minimum wage by $1.50 an hour.
"Clearly Tom Emmer is out of touch with the challenges facing hard-working families struggling in this economy," Kelliher said. "What he has proposed is no different than stealing tips off the tables of working people."
Kelliher's proposal would up the minimum wage to $7.65 for large employers and $6.75 for small businesses.
U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and U.S. Rep. Ron Kind of Wisconsin are pushing Congress to pass a bill protecting the upper Mississippi River.
The legislation is designed to protect farmland and water quality. It would order the U.S. Geological Survey to coordinate a public-private system to monitor the river and reduce runoff.
"Every time soil and nutrients run off the land, it increases the cost of farming and the cost of maintaining navigation on the Mississippi River," Klobuchar said. "These costs add up to hundreds of millions of dollars every year."
The Mississippi and its tributaries provide drinking water to 22 million Americans and much of Minnesota's farm production is shipped on the river.
A Minnesota group has filed paperwork supporting the National Day of Prayer after a judge ruled it unconstitutional.
"In her decision to strike down the National Day of Prayer, Judge Barbara Crabb arrogantly attempted to re-write 200 years of American history," said Tom Prichard, president of the Minnesota Family Council. "The decision is an attack upon our heritage and the religious freedom upon which our nation was founded. This very bad decision must be overturned."
Congress passed a law in 1952 establishing the prayer day, but U.S. District Judge Crabb overturned it in April.
Dayton wants specifics
Mark Dayton says voters deserve details about how governor candidates would balance the state budget.
The DFL candidate said his plan "is far more specific" than other candidates have proposed.
Candidates such as House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher and former Rep. Matt Entenza, both Democrats, and GOP Rep. Tom Emmer should have enough background to produce those details, Dayton said.
Dayton suggested the reason the public has heard fewer specifics from other candidates is they do not want to reveal how "draconian" their budget cuts would be as the state faces what some expect to be a $6 billion deficit.
Entenza's campaign released a statement saying its candidate actually has been more specific than Dayton about his economic and education plans. The campaign called Dayton's plan to increase taxes on the rich "politically impossible,"
Added Kelliher: "Mark Dayton's plan to raise taxes on middle class families and senior citizens, and Tom Emmer's plan to slash schools, health care and police and fire services are unrealistic and irresponsible."
Help for vets
Military veterans returning to civilian life who want to start businesses may be eligible for interest-free loans under a new Minnesota program.
The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Department is providing loans of up to $20,000 to begin a business.
"Veterans have successful track records as entrepreneurs, having developed leadership abilities and other skills in the military that are essential for running a business," said Commissioner Dan McElroy of the Department of Employment and Economic Development. "Veteran-owned businesses create jobs in Minnesota and contribute to the growth of our economy."
President Barack Obama signed a bill offered by U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar to reduce formaldehyde in wood products.
"High levels of formaldehyde are a health threat," the Minnesota Democrat said. "This law establishes national standards that will both protect public health and ensure an even playing field between domestic wood products and foreign imports."
Kelliher commercial debuts
Much has been made of the fact that House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher is the only one of three major Democratic governor candidates not to have television commercials airing.
That is changing as a spot is ready to hit the air after campaign volunteers preview it.
Volunteers planned to talk to 60,000 potential primary election voters during weekend in Kelliher's race against former state Rep. Matt Entenza and former U.S. Sen. Mark Dayton. Both have been running commercials for some time.
In a letter to volunteers, Kelliher wrote: "Because of all the hard work you have done on the phones and knocking on doors, I want you to see the ad first."