Bicameral set of bills introduced to eliminate unfair tax on women

LANSING — State Reps. Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids) and Brian K. Elder (D-Bay City) in the Michigan House, and state Sens. David Knezek (D-Dearborn Heights) and Rebekah Warren (D-Ann Arbor) in the Michigan Senate, introduced legislation today that would exempt feminine hygiene products from Michigan sales and use tax. The exemption would include tampons, sanitary napkins and similar feminine hygiene products.

“Women continually and predictably will need to use feminine hygiene products for the majority of their adult lives,” said Rep. Brinks. “For her health and safety, as well as her own peace of mind, things like tampons and sanitary napkins are non-negotiables for a woman, so it is appropriate that these products be recognized for the essential need items that they are, and are treated accordingly.”

“This issue is simple for me – feminine hygiene products are essential for the health and well-being of women from their adolescent years through adulthood,” said Sen. Knezek. “Instead of classifying these products as luxury item, as the law currently states, we should treat them like the necessity they are. Michigan law exempts a number of medically necessary items from taxation – feminine hygiene products would be a natural addition to that list.”

Studies indicate that over the course of her lifetime, a woman is expected to use an estimated 17,000 tampons and sanitary napkins, products which can be prohibitively expensive for low-income workers. Five states currently exempt such products from state taxes: Maryland, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Minnesota. In 2015, Canada also eliminated what was commonly referred to as the “tampon tax.”  In the House, Rep. Brinks introduced House Bill 4128 that would eliminate the use tax, while Rep. Elder introduced House Bill 4129 exempting the products from Michigan’s 6 percent sales tax. Senate Bills 91 and 92 were introduced in the senate, with Sen. Knezek introducing the bill to eliminate the use tax, while Sen. Warren’s bill dealt with the sales tax exemption.

“Feminine hygiene products are not a choice for women, they’re a necessity,” said Rep. Elder. “Michigan currently exempts everything from Pop Tarts and magazines to farming equipment from sales tax, so it is unfair that women are forced to pay a 6 percent penalty. Every dollar a poor or working class mother pays for this tax is a dollar she would rather spend on her children.”

“Given the number of products a woman must use in her lifetime, that 6 percent adds up, and that cost becomes an undue burden she is forced to carry, simply because of her biology,” said Sen. Warren. “This legislation will help remove an unnecessary economic hurdle that only half our population is forced to overcome, and acts as a small but powerful tool to help close the financial gap between men and women. I look forward to working with my colleagues in both chambers to see these bills passed.”

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