Push for diaper, incontinence product tax cut fails in irregular Michigan House vote

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

Lansing — A vote to repeal the state sales and use tax on incontinence products for adults and children failed Tuesday in the Michigan House, a rarity for bills that are posted for a final vote in the lower chamber. 

House Democrats voted against the measure, even after supporting it in committee. One lawmaker cited the ongoing negotiations over various tax cuts and the state budget as the reason for her no vote.

"When we have things like this, bills like this, that are pretty narrow and specific, I feel like it can undermine then the larger budget conversation we're having," said Rep. Felicia Brabec, D-Pittsfield Township. 

Two Michigan House bills that would lift state taxes on baby diapers and adult incontinence products were rejected in Tuesday votes.

Bills usually aren't posted for a final vote in the House unless leaders of the Republican majority are sure the requisite support is there to pass the legislation. On occasion, if a bill looks like it is headed for failure, floor leaders will pull the bill from the board before voting is complete. 

But the two bills lifting state taxes on baby diapers and adult incontinence products were allowed to fail Tuesday 49-54 and 50-53. 

The bills' sponsor, Rep. Julie Alexander, R-Hanover, said she requested the votes to proceed, knowing they would fail, to honor the process and move forward with the effort. The Senate is considering similar bills. 

"This is for families with young children," Alexander said. "This is for senior citizens who are buying a product they need for a health reason, and I thought it was only more than reasonable to give families that relief."

One of the last notable times a vote failed in the House was in 2017, when the GOP majority failed to secure the votes necessary to lower the personal income tax rate from 4.25% to 3.9%. 

The GOP-led Legislature and Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer currently have several competing tax proposals moving through the lawmaking process.

Whitmer has proposed the repeal of some retirement taxes and an increase in the earned income tax credit.

The Republican-led Legislature recently sent a $2.5 billion tax relief package to Whitmer to increase retirement income exemptions, cut the personal income tax rate and create $500 child tax credits.

And on Tuesday, the Senate gave some of the final approvals needed for a six-month suspension of the state's 27-cent-a-gal fuel tax.