Menstrual equality org explains backing MI lawsuit

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The co-founder of Period Equity is explaining why the organization is supporting a lawsuit going after Michigan’s tax on feminine hygiene products.

The suit argues the tax, commonly known as the tampon tax, violates the equal protection clauses in both the U.S. and state constitutions because it discriminates against women on the basis of sex.

“It’s really about demanding dignity, economic health and otherwise for everybody and that includes menstruation. It has to. Half the population goes through it,” Period Equity Co-Founder Jennifer Weiss-Wolf told News 8.

In the last five years, the organization has successfully convinced 10 states to stop taxing feminine hygiene products.

In 2016, a similar lawsuit to the one filed earlier this week was filed in New York. The suit was dropped once the state made feminine hygiene products tax-exempt.

Michigan is the second time the group has backed legal action.

“There’ve been bills introduced by both chambers and by both parties since 2016. There’s a live bill in 2019 and the legislature has not been able to move it and there’s not been enough pressure or demand for this tax reform,” Weiss-Wolf said. “The legislature and the governor have the ability to act and act quickly. If they don’t, they could be liable or the state could be held accountable for four years of back taxes, which amounts to over $25 million.”

The most recent states Period Equity worked with to stop the taxation were Ohio and Washington.

“Just this past spring, so at the height of COVID and while Washington was the epicenter of the pandemic, it recognized that this was a reasonable and smart form of tax relief for people who are doubly impacted by the economic crisis,” Weiss-Wolf said. “Because they are women because they are low-wage workers because they get paid less on the dollar than men are. So, Washington passed it. Gov. (Jay) Inslee signed it in April.”

A fiscal analysis done on bills introduced in the state House found ceasing sales and use taxation on feminine hygiene products would reduce revenue by approximately $6.5 million in one year.

“Assuming that the vast majority of the revenue loss is from the sales tax, school aid fund (SAF) revenue would decline by about $4.8 million and constitutional revenue sharing would be reduced by roughly $650,000. The remaining revenue reduction would be borne by the general fund (GF/GP),” the analysis said.

A likely argument against any change to Michigan’s tax code will surround that revenue loss.

“Why should women be bearing that burden for the state and why should they be paying those extra pennies?” Weiss-Wolf responded. “There are other ways to find tax relief for the state.”

She pointed to federal legislators changing how period products are classified through the CARES Act, which President Donald Trump signed in March.

The new designation makes items like pads and tampons medical necessities covered by flexible spending accounts (FSAs) and health savings accounts (HSAs) and eligible for reimbursement.

“Congress changed that designation,” Weiss-Wolf said. “That’s pretty major our dysfunctional Congress made it happen. I hope Michigan can make it happen.”