by Matt Fleming | January 27, 2016 4:57 am
The state’s Taxpayers’ Rights Advocate unanimously voted to support a bipartisan bill cutting sales tax on menstrual hygiene products — like tampons and sanitary napkins — giving the effort a big boost.
The bill’s primary author, Assemblywoman Christina Garcia, has railed against taxing menstrual hygiene products as discriminatory, especially to low-income women. The Bell Gardens Democrat says removing the “tampon tax” would benefit underprivileged women who may not be able to consistently afford the products.
Detractors argue against carving out special exemptions, proposing instead to redirect the tax revenue to fund assistance programs to help those in need. But a Garcia spokeswoman on Tuesday told CalWatchdog a similar attempt to redirect “tampon tax” revenue to women’s charities backfired against a British conservative lawmaker and said this was just the first step in making these products more affordable.
“Our tax code needs to reflect the fact that we don’t live in a time where we should be taxing women for being born women,” said spokeswoman Elena Lee. “Changing where the money goes from the tax does not change the fact that the tax on tampons and pads is outdated.”
The Board of Equalization, which supports the measure 4-0, projects the lost revenue if the bill passes to be around $20 million annually (less than $0.01 per woman per day). According to the bill’s coauthor, Asm. Ling Ling Chang, any tax cut is a victory for fiscal conservatives.
The Brea Republican, who is currently running for a state Senate, agrees with the bill on principle too, citing a loophole allowing a sales-tax exemption on candy as an example of an unfair tax code.
“Candy, frankly, is a choice,” Chang told CalWatchdog. “This is not a choice. This is a public health issue.”
Catherine Rampell, a Washington Post columnist, on Monday wrote the term “tampon tax” is “misleading,” as there’s not specific tax on menstrual hygiene products. Rampell argued against the carve out, adding she’s “skeptical of the idea that government is obligated to address every difference in every demographic group’s consumption bundle.”
“Maybe it seems unfair that in so many states Twizzlers don’t get taxed while tampons do,” Rampell wrote. “But the solution isn’t to dole out yet more tax breaks but to end the ones we have and direct more public funds to people who actually need assistance.”
The bill has a bipartisan group of 20 coauthors, including Speaker-elect Anthony Rendon, D-Paramount. That, plus Tuesday’s vote and favorable politics give the bill great momentum.
“Opposing the taxation of these items is a way to be both pro-feminist and anti-tax,” said John J. Pitney, Jr., a Roy P. Crocker professor of politics at Claremont McKenna College. “And since the amount of forgone revenue is extremely small, the issue is a political winner, period.”
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