Gov. Gretchen Whitmer speaks at Steelcase in Grand Rapids, Mich., on Monday, May 24, 2021. It was the first day Steelcase is having many of their employees back in the office since the coronavirus pandemic started, thanks to the new MIOSHA rules that changed today, allowing non-essential workers to come back to offices. (Cory Morse/The Grand Rapids Press via AP)

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan businesses with COVID-19 safety protocols could seek a refund for sales taxes paid on personal protective equipment, disinfectants and plexiglass barriers under bills nearing the desk of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

The Senate unanimously approved the Republican-sponsored legislation Wednesday. It previously cleared the House but goes back for a final vote because changes were made.

The sponsor, Rep. Jim Lilly of Ottawa County's Park Township, has said the cost of protective equipment is among challenges businesses face in the coronavirus pandemic. The tax break would apply both in the future and retroactively — to March 10, 2020.

"With this legislation, we have a fantastic opportunity to help,” Lilly said in March. "Keeping people safe should not be a barrier to keep a business open, earning a living, and keeping our economy and communities strong.”

The nonpartisan Senate Fiscal Agency says the bills would reduce sales and use tax revenue to the state's multibillion-dollar general and school aid funds by an “unknown and potentially significant amount.” It estimates the impact at more than $18 million annually but says that likely does not include items such as antibacterial soap, disinfectants and hand sanitizers.

It is not clear if the Democratic governor will sign the measures, which are supported by the business lobby.

"The Michigan Department of Treasury took no position, as it was considered pandemic relief," agency spokesman Ron Leix said. “With an estimated impact to be $18.5 million, we indicated that the bills needed to part of a budget conversation and fully funded.”


Follow David Eggert at