State Rep. Daniel Hernandez is looking to put legislation forward to exempt menstrual, diapers and incontinence products from sales taxes, but it’s been an uphill battle for the Democrat from LD2 who is pushing the bill for the fourth year.
Nina Sarha works in special projects and partnerships with PERIOD The Menstrual Movement, which advocates against taxes on tampons and for ending stigma attached to menstruation.
She said there are 31 states since Jan. 1 that still have sales taxes on menstrual products, often referred to as a tampon tax. California’s tampon tax will end in July 2023, Sarhan said.
However, last year, 22 out of 35 states with the tax saw legislation to exempt menstrual products.
Arizona was one of those states last year, but the bill stalled when it failed to get assigned to a committee. In 2018 and 2017, the bill stalled in the Rules and Health committees.
This year, the bill still hasn’t been assigned to a committee, but Hernandez said he will put it forward as long as he remains in office. He attributed the difficulty in getting traction to those on the far left who don’t want to cut taxes and those on the far right who don’t see the necessity.
It’s not just the tampon tax Hernandez is looking to end. He included incontinence products and diapers for children in his bill.
In 2014, the Centers for Disease Control reported that the financial burden in 2000 for bladder incontinence was $19.5 billion, with 50 to 75 percent of costs attributed to routine care like products and laundry.
Hernandez said it’s not just seniors. Anyone who was incontinent due to a disability or taking care of someone who is would also get some relief.
The bill would also eliminate taxes on diapers for children, he said.
Not everyone sees the cut as a good move.
Don Woolley, a former GOP candidate for state Legislature and Sahuarita resident, and his wife, Patti, officially registered their opposition to Hernandez’s 2018 bill.
Woolley said Hernandez was pandering to women and seniors. He favors income tax cuts or tax cuts that benefit everyone but opposes cuts for specific groups.
“I just don’t believe in my heart that a nickel on the dollar is going to make a difference to somebody that they can’t buy this or that,” Woolley said. “I think it’s an emotional, feel-good thing.”
Hernandez doesn’t see the bill as not having any real-world effect on purchasing power.
“Organizations like the Diaper Bank of Southern Arizona, which have partnerships with groups like Huggies, are actually able to get more diapers they can then give out in the community if we have this exemption,” he said Tuesday. “For them, they would be able to provide about 15 percent more diapers.”
Hernandez said there hadn’t been an analysis of the impact the bill would have on state revenue since two years ago when the bill made it to committee. That analysis projected an $8 million to $10 million loss in sales tax, he said. If the bill makes it to a committee this year, an updated analysis would be made.
“This year we have an almost $800 million budget surplus, and this is not just about how much it costs, it’s about equity and fairness,” he said.
Hernandez said there are more than 300 tax exemptions in Arizona that have less merit than the three he is proposing. He pointed to tax exemptions on an extended warranty for a new TV or Viagra as examples.
“It’s an issue of fairness and equity because you shouldn’t have to pay more in taxes to pay for a basic necessity, which is diapers for a young family or if you’re a woman for feminine hygiene products or if you someone who is incontinent,” he said.