GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A Grand Rapids woman is raising awareness surrounding "tampon tax," sales tax collected on menstrual items such as sanitary pads and tampons. In the state of Michigan, the items are taxed at 6%.
Bills to eliminate the tax have stalled multiple times in the Michigan legislature and in committee. Advocates were hopeful for change in 2020, but the pandemic put the bill once again on the back burner. With the new legislative session in order, bills in both the House and Senate were introduced in February. They are currently waiting to be heard at committee meetings, the next step in the process.
Legislators also introduced the bill while there is a pending lawsuit against the state that alleges collecting tax on menstrual products is "unlawful and invalid." The lawsuit claims these types of products are medical necessities, which typically aren't taxed under state law.
Emily Beggs of East Grand Rapids is one of the plaintiffs named in the lawsuit. For the past two years, she has been working on raising awareness about the issue and collecting donations for menstrual products through the non-profit I Support The Girls.
Beggs has been worked directly with women and community partners to provide bras, underwear, and menstrual products. Some of the women she has helped have turned to using other items like socks or even newspapers during menstruation.
"One of the women that I help in the community, her daughters are at home right now because that is all they have, sitting on the towel with her period, and she can’t go anywhere," said Beggs. "A lot of times they can’t go to school, so it is a medical necessity."
Throughout the month of March, Beggs is working with Outside Coffee in Grand Rapids to set up a donation site. On Saturday, Beggs will also be working at a booth to collect donations on site. She will also be raising awareness about the tampon tax and the upcoming legislation she hopes will pass.
The current Senate bill was sponsored by Democratic Senator Winnie Brinks of Grand Rapids, who has supported similar bills that have failed or stalled in the past.
"I’m really quite determined to keep pursuing this," said Senator Brinks. "There's so many good reasons why this is good policy, and many of those reasons make a lot of sense to my colleagues on the other side of the aisle as well."
If the bill passes, it could result in a settlement in the lawsuit, potentially saving the state millions of dollars in damages that would otherwise be awarded if the lawsuit were successful.
The bill currently has the support of Governor Whitmer. She has also introduced a provision that would end the Michigan sales tax on menstrual products in her budget in Fiscal Year 2022. The avenue is another way to eliminate the tax, even before the bills have the opportunity to be heard in committee.