Legislators consider sales tax for clothing

Should Minnesota implement a sales tax on clothing?

The state is in the minority when it comes to exempting clothing from its sales tax, and discussion about subjecting clothing to the state sales tax is underway in St. Paul.

The Sun Current asked Bloomington’s legislators, “Do you support taxing clothing sales?”

Responses from Bloomington’s five house and senate members are as follows:

Melisa Franzen, Senate District 49 (D-Edina): Imposing new taxes is never my first choice, but Minnesota’s economic outlook remains challenging. We are facing a $1.1 billion deficit and $1 billion is still owed to our schools. We must approach this challenge with open minds and create a sustainable budget.

There are no quick or easy fixes. The budget challenges will not be wiped away by a single change to tax policy or budget cut. My approach is to look carefully at a wide range of proposals and ideas, to consult with my constituents and consider how proposed changes will affect the business and economic climate in the district and the state.

We need to look at how this proposal fits into a comprehensive budget plan and how it affects Minnesota families. We face difficult choices and I will vote for proposals that help move Minnesota forward and put our community ahead of political maneuvering.

Ann Lenczewski, House District 50B (D-Bloomington): No. At this time, I do not support adding taxes to clothing purchases.

However, as the Minnesota House Taxes Committee chair, I will be reviewing and taking testimony on numerous tax provisions. I will see where the majority of legislators wish to go with this item, and all other tax items. I also would like to hear from Bloomington residents and I encourage anyone to come to St. Paul and testify to share your thoughts.

Taxing clothing without a broad reform of the entire sales tax system would be, in my mind, a legislative miss. True reform of the sales tax requires sales tax rate reductions coupled with base broadening. Purchasing services, rather than goods, like clothing, is where the growth in our consumer economy is taking place. In the House Taxes Committee we are open to any and all ideas and we hope to hear from you.

Paul Rosenthal, House District 49B (D-Edina): Economic forecasts revealed early last month that we’re facing a $1.1 billion budget shortfall this year. When the money still owed to schools is included the shortfall rises to over $2 billion.

I am supportive of a mix of spending cuts and revenue reforms to sensibly balance the state’s budget. I believe we should leave all options on the table as we look at ways to structurally balance the budget and reduce the deficit.

Linda Slocum, House District 50A, (D-Richfield): An extension of the sales tax to clothing is under discussion at the Capitol as we confront our continuing state budget challenges.

The time for shifts, gimmicks and borrowing to paper over real structural budget problems is over. My goal is to end Minnesota’s 10-year fiscal rollercoaster ride and squarely address our budget problems with a balanced mix of cuts and fair revenue increases.

Sales taxes are “regressive” taxes because they tend to take up a higher percentage of the budget of a person or family with a lower income. Because of this regressivity and to level the playing field, there are exemptions from the state sales tax for several necessity items, including food, prescription drugs, home heating fuel and certain medical devices, as well as a variety of services.

Supporters of a sales tax on clothing say that such a tax is regressive to a point. While clothing is a necessity, they maintain that luxury clothing items are non-essential purchases and therefore could be appropriately subjected to sales tax.

I will be sending out a survey to my constituents in the next couple of weeks to gauge their opinions on this topic and a variety of other topics. I want to look at a broader picture, all the options for raising revenue before making a commitment to one particular source. I will be looking for a fair way to increase revenue to meet the needs of the people in Richfield and Bloomington.

Melissa Halvorson Wiklund, Senate District 50 (D-Bloomington): Given that it is only the first full week of the session, I am just beginning to hear about some of the different possibilities that will be discussed over the next weeks. I need to see more details before making a decision on possibly taxing clothing sales. We need a balanced solution to our budget issues and by talking about current policies along with new ideas we will have the best chance at developing a responsible solution.

 

Contact Mike Hanks at mike.hanks@ecm-inc.com

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