A panel of legislators today approved a bill to exempt tampons, diapers and baby formula from sales taxes.
HB2217 also exempts sanitary napkins, menstrual sponges, menstrual cup, other feminine hygiene products, and adult diapers from the sales tax. The tax exemptions would expire in 2026.
The measure squeaked by the House Ways and Means, 5-4, with the support of two Republicans and all Democrats on the panel. It will also need the approval of the House Health Committee before making it to debate on the floor.
The bill is Tucson Democratic Rep. Daniel Hernandez’s second attempt to rid the state of its tampon tax. A similar bill last year passed one committee, but fizzled out before reaching the House floor.
This time, Hernandez has three Republican cosponsors: Reps. Drew John, Todd Clodfelter and Michelle Ugenti-Rita.
Last year’s bill would have cost the state’s general fund $7 million.
Ashley Ware, who told the committee she grew up with eight women in her household, said sometimes the family budget didn’t have room for menstrual products. The women would sometimes have to barter for tampons or figure out who could borrow from work friends or classmates or go without, she said.
“Those nickels and dimes for me and my family, for eight women, could have been another meal or a box of tampons before payday,” she said.
Dianne Post, an attorney, said the state already exempts sheep, donkeys and lottery tickets, among many other goods, from the sales tax. And while the state budget is a financial document, it also reveals morals and what a society values, she said.
Daniel Moxley, director of the Diaper Bank of Southern Arizona, said a third of Arizona moms struggle to provide diapers to her kids. Sometimes, people end up reusing disposable diapers when they can’t afford new ones, which is a health risk, Moxley said.
Several states have approved or considered laws to exempt tampons from sales taxes, as the issue has become more visible in the U.S. and across the world. Some states have passed laws requiring schools to have free feminine hygiene products available for their students.
In 2015, Canada ended its tax on feminine hygiene products following a widely-circulated petition effort. Kenya doesn’t tax tampons.
The lawmakers who voted against the bill made sure to declare their love and support for babies, women and the elderly, and said their opposition isn’t a slight to those populations.
“I love babies. I love children. I love older people who require diapers,” Republican Rep. Jay Lawrence said before voting against the bill.
Republican Rep. Anthony Kern said he wants to see how the federal tax overhaul affects people and suggested holding off on the tampon tax bill until next session.
“I care more about teacher pay at this moment,” he said.
Republican Rep. Jeff Weninger of Chandler, who earlier in the hearing was asked by a Democratic lawmaker if he cares about babies, said he found it “somewhat offensive” to hear insinuations that a person doesn’t like babies or the elderly because that person philosophically disagrees with a bill.
Weninger voted yes, but added that he wants to see the cities be forced to comply with the tax exemption, as well. Otherwise, he said, the bill wouldn’t be “intellectually honest.”
Hernandez said he’s willing to amend the bill to make clear that cities can’t separately tax those items.
Ugenti-Rita, the committee’s chairwoman, wrapped up voting by saying it should be a given that everyone loves babies, the elderly and humans in general.
“For those of you voting no, I think you love babies, too,” she said.