GOP's Sen. Howe proposes expansion of state sales tax

A first-term Republican legislator is proposing an expansion of the state sales tax as a way to break a budget impasse and also avoid a state government shutdown.

Sen. John Howe, R-Red Wing, said he talked with Gov. Mark Dayton twice during the past week to discuss his plan. Howe wants to expand the state sales tax to more goods and services, while lowering the rate. He said the changes would result in a more stable funding for state government.

"We have a very volatile funding environment, and I think by shifting to a consumption tax and away from income tax and relying so much on income tax and property tax, I think it's the right thing to do," Howe said.

Howe is also proposing the passage of a "lights on" funding bill while a special commission works on the tax code changes. Gov. Dayton's spokeswoman confirmed the discussions, but she said he made no commitments to Howe.

Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch, R-Buffalo, said she doesn't support the proposal as part of a budget solution.