A bill that asks voters whether they want to increase the state sales tax to fund programs for the outdoors, the environment and the arts is on the fast track for floor votes this week after the Minnesota Legislature opens its session today.

Legislative leaders said Monday that the bill could be passed by week's end. It is likely to be identical to one that has been sitting in a conference committee since time ran out on it during the 2007 legislative session.

Almost a decade in the crafting, the measure would ask voters whether the Minnesota Constitution should be amended to raise the sales tax by 3/8 of 1 percent and dedicate the funds to clean water, the arts and natural resources.

"Minnesotans have always loved the great outdoors; the hunting and fishing; our fabulous state parks," said Sen. Majority Leader Larry Pogemiller, DFL-Minneapolis, a sponsor of the bill. "These fundamental features of our quality of life have been neglected in the past few years. We can do better than that. The time to take responsibility for our future is now, this legislative session."

Voters would decide in November whether to approve the sales tax increase and dedicate the funding. If the amendment were approved, the increase would begin in June 2009 and extend until June 2034. If would generate about $279 million a year.

Because the bill involves a proposed constitutional amendment, it is not subject to approval by the governor.