A national movement is steadily gaining steam, and its backers have one simple demand: Stop taxing menstrual products.
Some states have heeded the call. In the past year, officials in New York, Illinois and Connecticut have passed measures to end increasingly unpopular sales taxes on tampons, pads, menstrual cups and other feminine-hygiene items.
Five other states have also nixed the “tampon tax,” which treats menstrual products as luxury goods rather than tax-free medical necessities.
But America’s most populous state won’t be joining the push.
On Tuesday, California Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a bill that would have ended the state’s tax on menstrual products. The measure was one of seven pieces of legislation Brown killed Tuesday, citing the state’s budget woes.
“Tax breaks are the same thing as new spending,” the governor said in a statement.
The veto is a rebuke of the state legislature, which unanimously approved the bill in August to much fanfare. Brown said that the state’s finances were “precariously balanced” and that lawmakers should have brought the measure up during budget deliberations.
A Brown aide echoed the governor’s remarks in a tweet later in the day.
— Nancy McFadden (@NancyEMcFadden) September 13, 2016
The bill’s co-author, Assembly member Cristina Garcia, criticized the move, saying Brown was “propping up the state budget on the backs of women.” “Men purchase Viagra and they don’t get taxed,” Garcia, a Democrat, told the Huffington Post. “There is no other such tax that’s gender specific in the tax code. Women matter and we need to send that message to the Governor.”
— Anne Bazil (@bazilicus3) September 14, 2016
More than three dozen states do not consider menstrual products and feminine hygiene items “necessities” — or non-luxury items — making them subject to state sales taxes. Generally speaking, groceries, medical supplies and some agricultural materials are considered necessities exempt from sales taxes.
Garcia’s bill would have added menstrual products to a list of health-care goods that are already exempt from California’s sales tax, including prescription medicine and walkers. According to her office, Californians have spent about $7 per month per woman over the course of four decades on tampons and sanitary napkins, adding up to $20 million annually in taxes.
She said the burden falls especially hard on poor women, “who struggle to pay for basic necessities like a box of tampons or pads every month for their adult life.”
Being poor and having a period “means that once a month you have the added stress of finding a way to pay for these essentials,” Garcia said in January when the bill was introduced.
What’s particularly ironic about Brown’s veto is that Garcia’s bill inspired a string of anti-tampon-tax measures in states around the country, several of which have been approved. New York, Illinois and Connecticut all passed theirs in the months that followed, and the New York City Council approved a program to distribute free tampons in schools, prisons and homeless shelters. The District of Columbia is currently weighing whether to eliminate its own taxes on feminine hygiene products and diapers. Chicago was the first jurisdiction to drop a city tax.
And the fight isn’t unique to the United States: Canada eliminated its tax on menstrual products over the summer.
Garcia said her fight to end California’s tax will go on.
“I will keep pushing,” she said, “until we get it done.”