Diapers & Tampons Are Still Taxable “Luxury” Items Because Our Bodies Are Government Moneymakers

"Babies over booze."
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There are only twelve states in the U.S. that don’t tax the sale of diapers and menstrual products, and California just, once again, decided not to become the 13th. Last year, Governor Jerry Brown vetoed a series of bills aiming to do away with the taxes on these essential items, saying “Tax breaks are the same as new spending.”

At the time, the author of the tampon tax bill had a pretty reasonable question for Brown.

No woman’s basic biological needs should be the basis for a balanced budget, nor those of her child (or the elderly), especially not low-income women and families. Studies have shown that one in three families struggles to pay for diapers. It’s estimated that families can spend $80 to $100 per month on diapers for a single child, with up to 10% of that being sales tax. Meaning if the sales tax were repealed, families would essentially get a free month of diapers. And to top this all off, diapers aren’t included in federal assistance programs; you can’t buy them using food stamps or other welfare programs.

Sure, people don’t want to see an increase in their taxes, and the diaper and tampon/pad tax repeals would have cost taxpayers about $55 million combined. But a new bill proposed this year would have made up for that revenue loss with a modest increase in the tax for hard liquor. Modest, in this case, means a tax of 1.5 to 3 cents per serving. Liquor taxes, by the way, have not been raised in the state in three decades.

I wish it were more surprising to hear that the bill, after being fought hard by the liquor industry, was killed in a California State Assembly committee.

I wish it were surprising at all to learn that all but one of those committee members were male.

I like my hooch as much as anyone, but this is atrocious. The Chair of the California Legislative Women’s Caucus, Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, put it perfectly: “Common sense is that liquor is a choice and a luxury and human biology is not. There is no happy hour for menstruation. Our tax code needs to reflect the fact that it’s not ok to tax women for being born women.”

Assemblywoman Gonzalez Fletcher says, “Diapers are an expensive necessity for every baby, and for many elderly and disabled Californians. It’s just common sense that we shouldn’t tax life necessities like diapers and tampons, and every dollar we can save parents and seniors is critical. We need our tax system to reflect our values.”

Put succinctly by Fletcher, “This is about valuing the health of women, seniors and families over things that aren’t necessary to the lives of tens of millions of Californians. It’s babies over booze”

(via LAist, image: Shutterstock)

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Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.