Whitmer wants to ax school supplies tax

By Allison R. Donahue, Michigan Advance

August is an expensive month for educators as they prep for the new school year and purchase their classroom supplies. 

To help lessen the financial burden on teachers and parents, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer proposed Tuesday to suspend sales tax on these items.

“As families gear up for the school year, they should be able to get what they need without spending too much money out of pocket,” said Whitmer. “That’s why I’m putting forward the MI Back to School Plan, which includes a proposal to temporarily suspend the sales tax on school supplies. Getting this done would lower costs for parents, teachers, and students right now, and ensure that they have the resources to succeed.”

According to a report from Deloitte, an international consulting firm,  families expect to spend up to $661 per child on school supplies this year, as opposed to $612 per child last year, due to rising inflation.

Michigan is one of 19 other states working on plans to suspend state sales taxes on clothing, shoes, backpacks, computers and other school supplies.

Alex Bohr, a fourth-grade teacher at Gull Lake Community Schools, said he spends about $500 out-of-pocket each year for classroom supplies. 

“That’s a big challenge for me as an early-career teacher with low wages,” Bohr said. “On top of school supplies, many of us also buy snacks for students whose families aren’t able to send snacks from home, so the kids can have something to eat during the day outside of lunch. All of these costs accumulate and can become a substantial financial burden, both for educators and parents.”

Michigan Education Association President Paula Herbart, a veteran educator from Macomb County, said the teachers’ union supports the governors’ proposal and they “urge lawmakers to work swiftly with the governor and provide this critical relief for Michigan parents and educators.” 

Senate Republicans criticized Whitmer for vetoing a $2.5 billion tax cut.

“Back-to-school is costing more than ever this year.  We passed bipartisan bills to let everyone – especially families – keep more of what they’ve earned. But @GovWhitmer vetoed them, leaving Michiganders on their own to deal with record-high prices,” Senate Republicans wrote on Twitter.

Since the start of 2021, there has been legislation introduced by Republicans and Democrats to cut the sales tax on diapers and other incontinence products, medical marijuana, firearm safety devices, pet food, contact lenses and certain personal protection equipment.

In November, Whitmer signed a bipartisan bill package eliminating the state’s 6% sales and use tax on menstrual products. The law went into effect in February after years of failed attempts to get Republican support for this legislation.

Michigan Advance is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Michigan Advance maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Susan Demas for questions: [email protected]. Follow Michigan Advance on Facebook and Twitter.