This week, the California Assembly unanimously passed a bill that would exempt menstrual products from state sales tax, sending it to Gov. Jerry Brown’s (D) desk.
The bill got bipartisan support, with Democrats arguing the tax is an unfair burden on women when things like Rogaine and Viagra are often tax-exempt. Republicans, meanwhile, supported tax relief.
“Fundamentally this is about gender equity and leveling the field,” said Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia (D), who wrote the bill.
And Assemblywoman Ling-Ling Chang (R) said in supporting the bill, “By scrapping this tax, we’re putting money back in the pockets of California women.”
Brown has not said whether he’ll sign it into law and his office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Repealing the so-called “tampon tax” would cost the state an estimated $20 million in tax revenue.
California is one of a handful of states that have taken notice of the fact that menstrual products are treated like luxury items and subjected to sales tax, while things like prescription drugs and even shampoo are exempt. New York State got rid of its tampon tax in April after a group of women filed a lawsuit claiming it amounted to discrimination. A similar lawsuit was filed earlier this year in Ohio. Bills have been introduced in that state, as well as in Illinois, Utah, Virginia, and Wisconsin.
President Obama has even taken notice of the issue, saying he has “no idea why states would tax these as luxury items,” but positing that “it’s because men were making the laws when those taxes were passed.” He also urged women in states where tampon taxes exist “to work to get those taxes removed.”
Yet even with New York and California working to repeal their taxes, just five other states have already done the same. The 40 others with sales tax still treat tampons as taxable luxury items.
The women who have filed lawsuits have come up with estimates of how much the tampon tax costs them. The numbers are huge: $11 million a year in Ohio and $14 million in New York.