Michigan House approves elimination of "tampon tax" for first time

(Richard B. Levine) (Photo by Richard Levine/Corbis via Getty Images)

The Michigan House advanced legislation Thursday that would eliminate sales taxes on menstrual products, bringing the state one step closer to abolishing the so-called "tampon tax."

The legislation, if passed by the Senate and signed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, would eliminate the 6% sales tax on menstrual products as "luxury items." The proposal passed with bipartisan support 94-13.

Similar bills to end the tax have been introduced during each legislative session in Michigan since 2016, but have not made it to a floor vote in either chamber.

Whitmer, a Democrat, initially proposed lifting the tax in her proposal for the 2022 budget with a provision that the tax revenue lost would not be pulled from the School Aid Fund. The House Fiscal Agency estimates that Michigan would lose out on $7 million in tax revenue each year, but maintains that funding will not be taken from schools.

Harbor Springs Republican Rep. John Damoose, who voted Thursday to approve the measure, said he was struck by a conversation with a friend in which the tampon tax was identified as a "liberal" issue. He testified that there should be no reason that "just because the other side wants something, the other should say no."

"These ideas seem to fit within Republican ideals as much as they do within Democratic ideals," Damoose said. "I came to the conclusion that if there are things we can do together, we should do them together."

Democrat Rep. Padma Kuppa, who co-sponsored the bill, echoed the bipartisan support behind it, adding that the cost of menstruation can limit individuals’ opportunities by forcing people to miss work and school.

"In lieu of sanitary products, many people are often forced to use items such as rags, paper towels and toilet paper," the Troy lawmaker said. "The stories that have been shared with me personally as I advocated for this bill, especially when it comes to children, are difficult to hear. Young people face enough challenges on their way to adulthood and period poverty should not be one of them."

At least 20 states have either ended the taxation of period products or never had the tax to begin with, according to Period Equity, a legal organization that advocates for making menstrual products tax-exempt. Other Midwestern states that don’t tax such items are Illinois, Ohio and Minnesota.

Several organizations support lifting the tax including Michigan’s Department of Treasury, the Michigan State Medical Society, the Consumer Health Products Association and the Michigan Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence.