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NASHVILLE - A top aide to Republican Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey today defended the GOP gubernatorial candidate's criticisms of Gov. Phil Bredesen's plan to apply the local sales tax to the portion of big-ticket items costing above $3,200.

"The governor has been successful over the past seven years precisely because he has consistently opposed tax increases, like this one proposed for Tennessee's small businesses," Lance Frizzell, Lt. Gov. Ramsey's deputy chief of staff, said in an e-mail. "It's how he got elected in the first place and it's the way he should finish out his last months in office."

Mr. Frizzell said Lt. Governor Ramsey, the Senate speaker, "is determined to keep running Tennessee in a fiscally conservative manner and he hopes the Democratic administration will join him in doing that. If not, Gov. Bredesen is always welcome to veto the budget and argue to the people of the state as to why our small businesses need to be paying more in taxes when they should be growing jobs."

On Monday, Lt. Gov. Ramsey's gubernatorial campaign sent out an e-mail criticizing Gov. Bredesen's proposal to raise $85 million to keep from cutting state employees' salaries.

The governor responded today.

"For the next month or so while the legislature's here I need a little more Ron Ramsey the speaker than Ron Ramsey the gubernatorial candidate," the governor told reporters this morning.

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