For the second year in a row, Representative Sue Duckworth (Democrat – Salt Lake City) would present legislation designed to eliminate the sales tax on incontinence and feminine hygiene related products with the appropriately named HB 71 – Hygiene Tax Act.
Duckworth would simply start by asking the members of the House Revenue and Taxation committee to simply “take off your legislator hats and put on your father hat, your grandfather hat, your mother hat, and put on your taxpayer hat,” adding that the bill is much more than “Tampon Tax,” rather it would remove state sales tax on medically necessary products such as incontinent pads, children’s diapers, and any disposable feminine hygiene products.
“The tax savings on a box of diapers can go from 18 cents to 50 cents, depending on the size and makeup of the family…a lot of times we are on a fixed income if we are seniors, if we have teens we are purchasing those products for, or a young family, perhaps putting the mother or father through school or having children in school – we hit every generation [with this tax].”
Duckworth would disagree with the fiscal note attached to the bill (passage would reduce state coffers by an estimated $4 million in 2018 and $5.1 million in 2019 – last year it was $1.3 million, most likely because of the addition of disposable diapers for babies) because she feels the money saved by consumers would go back into the economy. She also rejected concerns that the legislation reduces the tax base based on this same mode of thinking; adding that the state is happy to give tax breaks to the tune of “100’s of millions of dollars in tax incentives to overseas companies to come to Utah and receive tax breaks on industrial equipment and land acquisitions, but I guess it’s just not good tax policy to assist Utah taxpayers that would benefit from this bill.”
Karianne Lisonbee (Republican – Clearfield) did raise concerns that the legislation would add to Utah’s landfills. “I do have some concerns with a tax incentive, in a way, of removing the sales tax on disposable items. And the reason is I have great concern for the situation we have in Utah with some of our landfills, and I know that there are non-disposable diapers and non-disposable feminine sanitary supplies that could greatly reduce the impact on our landfills. Because of that, I contacted the sponsor because I couldn’t support the bill as written.”
Duckworth would concede that she simply could not incorporate Lisonbee’s request in time for the tax commission to weigh in on the effects of such a proposal, so she opted instead to move forward with the bill.
Lisonbee’s objection to the legislation, as is, was a unique one for such legislation. She explained to Utah Political Capitol that she had personal experience with non-disposable, eco-friendly diapers while raising her six children, noting that they are “an affordable option to less Earth-friendly products,” and that she would purchase things like cloth diapers at big box stores. She would also add that non-disposable feminine hygiene products can be purchased at some stores across the Wasatch Front, cost $20, and last for roughly a year.
Lesley Durham with Utah Women Unite called the tax “an additional hardship for a class of people that make less than men already…additionally, this isn’t a luxury for us.” Kathleen Miller, also with Utah Women Unite, added that New York and Connecticut have similar tax exemptions and that they are still fiscally sound. Finally, Erika Larsen, the last speaker for Utah Women Unite challenged the men on the committee “to ask the women I now you have in your life whether or not being a women and having to purchase tampons or pads is a luxury. I guarantee you that at least 90 percent of women in your life will tell you no. That it is not a luxury and, as such, should not even be subject to sales tax as a luxury item.” Adds that other tax exemptions don’t differentiate between those who can and can not afford the taxes if they were in place.
Heather Williamson with Americans for Prosperity, Utah opposed the measure, largely because the DC beltway backed conservative think-tank prefers broad-based tax reductions rather than “picking winners and losers in the marketplace.”
Lisonbee ultimately would ask for a motion to adjourn, effectively ensuring that the bill will not be heard again – causing the bill to die in committee without a vote. Representatives Joel Briscoe (Democrat – Salt Lake City) and Steve Eliason (Republican – Sandy) wished to keep debate open, but were outvoted by remaining committee members.