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Gender 'Injustice' Behind Call to Reduce Taxes on Tampons

“There is no happy hour for menstruation," says a legislator looking to pay for tax cuts on feminine products with a tax hike on hard liquor.

In his veto message of a series of tax-reduction bills last September, California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) explained that "tax breaks are the same as new spending—they both cost the general fund money." He said such measures should be on the table during budget negotiations, "so that all spending proposals are weighed against each other at the same time."

Among the bills that were vetoed at that time were two that would have repealed sales taxes on diapers and tampons. Both measures passed unanimously, but the governor wanted to assure that new spending-related measures didn't lead to deficits. So the authors of those two measures are back again this year—but this time they are addressing the revenue issue.

The Common Cents Tax Reform Act, Assembly Bill 479, would "exempt diapers, tampons, pads and other basic necessities from California's sales tax," according to a statement last week from its authors. The February version of the bill would have exempted sales taxes from the sale, storage and use of various physician-prescribed medicines, but was amended to target diapers and feminine products.

To deal with the governor's concerns, its co-authors (Assembly members Cristina Garcia, D-Bell Gardens, and Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, D-San Diego) want to raise taxes to offset the tax cut. The bill would increase the excise tax by $1.20 per gallon on hard liquor that is 100 proof and and by $2.40 a gallon for liquors that are more than 100 proof.

They estimate the tax increase will add about 1.5 cents per gallon to the typical hard-liquor serving and say that it's a modest increase, but the tax rate would be boosted by more than 36 percent—raising it from $3.30 a gallon to $4.50 a gallon. The state's excise taxes, however, would remain the same on the sales of beer and wine.

"Common sense is that liquor is a choice and a luxury and human biology is not," said Garcia, who authored the tampon-tax bill last year. "There is no happy hour for menstruation. Our tax code needs to reflect the fact that it's not OK to tax women for being born women." Gonzalez Fletcher, who had authored the diaper-tax measure, depicted the matter as one of "babies over booze." Because the bill requires a tax increase, it will need two-thirds supermajority support in the Legislature.

But opponents of the legislation caution against using the tax code to favor some goods over others. "Taxing drinks to reduce the taxes on other consumer goods is folly—not least because retailers will mark up diapers and feminine care products to their current price," said Kevin Kosar, a senior fellow of the R Street Institute in Washington, D.C., and author of the 2016 book, Moonshine: A Global History.

"Drink taxes should only cover the social costs they produce—not expenses attributable to normal bodily functions like defecation and menstruation," he added. "What's next—taxing drinks to pay for toilet paper and fingernail clippers?"

This is likely to become a partisan issue. Some California Republicans supported previous efforts to reduce taxes on diapers and tampons, figuring any tax reduction is a good thing. Likewise, many Republicans generally took issue with the governor's statement equating tax cuts as spending. If a cut is the same thing as a spending hike, then it implies the government—rather than individuals—is the steward of all income. But they appreciate Brown's insistence the budget remain balanced, which means any diversion of revenue has to be made up somewhere else.

California Democrats are jumping on a national "gender equity" campaign designed to reduce the prices of feminine products and other necessities. For instance, The Washington Post reported that New York's Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo last year signed a law exempting sales tax from tampons and Washington, D.C.'s Democratic mayor signed a law that also removes the tax from diapers. Cuomo blasted the tax as regressive—meaning it hurts the poor the most—and called it a "matter of social and economic justice."

Assembly Bill 479 isn't the only recent effort to rearrange the tax code to favor in a targeted manner. "The Teacher Recruitment and Retention Act of 2017," introduced by Democratic state Sens. Henry Stern, D-Agoura Hills, and Cathleen Galgiani, D-Stockton, would exempt public-school teachers from paying state income tax on their teacher salaries if they stay in the field for at least five years. The goal is to address a shortage of classroom teachers.

The diaper/tampon exemption would be revenue-neutral because of the corresponding booze-tax increase, but the teacher exemption is estimated to cost more than $617 million a year. Although the state's highly progressive tax code already is filled with special privileges for some and higher tax rates for others, critics worry that this new spate of tax exemptions could spark a frenzy of similar bills, and the slow expansion of state tax exemptions from one favored group to another.

When Gov. Brown vetoed seven tax bills last year, he noted that their cumulative effect would be to reduce revenues by around $300 million. He cautioned about cutting such revenues "when the state's budget remains precariously balanced."

Although there's disagreement on the likelihood of new deficits, there's little question that California's budget remains as precarious as ever. That gives the teacher exemption a huge obstacle—but it's unclear what the governor might do if AB479 passes now that supporters of the tampon and diaper exemptions identified a tax hike to make up for lost revenue.

This article first appeared in Calwatchdog.

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  • wareagle||

    "tax breaks are the same as new spending—they both cost the general fund money."

    When this is the underlying belief not just of the Governor, not just the Assembly, but a large chunk of the electorate, don't act surprised when even an insanely wealthy state goes to shit.

  • John Thacker||

    OTOH, if you're so opposed to the idea of tax preferences being spending and approving of any tax cut whatsoever, no matter how "targeted," like some libertarian commenters here, that you support ideas like "exempt public-school teachers from paying state income tax," don't be surprised when even an insanely wealthy state starts exempting public employees from state income tax, progressively raises taxes on private sector employees, and everything ends up going to shit *and* being a socialist state where everyone works for the government.

    Fair taxes uniformly applied are less socialist than the government picking and choosing, especially when states are required to balance their budget. Oppose spending first.

  • MoreFreedom||

    I agree - no tax is fair, simply because it's taken via force.

    What's important is to keep government limited to dealing with those that want to break our legs or pick our pockets. That is how to limit the unfairness of taxes.

    The GOP RINOs love talking tax reform, because it distracts from their big spending plans. What kind of taxes are best is another subject.

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  • Chipper Morning Wood||

    "There is no happy hour for menstruation."

    Well maybe there should be.

  • Chipper Morning Wood||

    This guy gets it.
    Happy St. Patrick's Day!

  • Lorenzo Zoil||

    Being born female is an injustice?

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    No, having products to help you through your period is an injustice.

  • Lorenzo Zoil||

    Oh OK, easy fix then.

  • BTS11||

    just cut everyone's taxes we had no choice in being born!

  • ||

    It's not a choice to have a menstrual cycle, it is a choice what you use for it. Same with being dirty, why tax soap and shampoo? Why tax first aid equipment? why tax "livesaving" drugs? Why tax condoms and other preventative measures? Why tax books? Why tax children's sports and equipment?....

  • pyrrhonist1975||

    Drinking is not really a choice for alcoholics once they get to the point of being physically addicted to alcohol so taxing alcohol could be looked at the same way.

  • Rhywun||

    Might as well add tobacco. It's not like states are balancing their budgets on the back of addicted smokers or anything, while crowing that smoking is a lower-class habit I might add.

  • Robert||

    At least the way it was when I learned about it, soap was considered a necessity & not subject to excise tax, but shampoo was considered a luxury & subject to excise tax. You could wash your hair with soap & avoid the tax.

  • Jgalt1975||

    why tax "livesaving" drugs?

    I don't know about the other items in your list off-hand, but prescription drugs are exempt from state sales tax in California and every other state I'm familiar with....

  • MoreFreedom||

    Your post gets to the heart of the subject. There are many necessities of life, and why should government play favorites by taxing some but not others? Most of our spending is for necessities: food, shelter, clothing, medical care, etc. And all those things are taxed.

    Consider the work sellers of tampons will have to do, to exempt them from taxes. Their computers will need to be programed to exclude taxes on them. Or old store cash registers will have to be replaced - or the owner will decide to just not sell tampons. That's no help, that creates additional costs for us, that may cost more than is saved.

  • Rational Exuberance||

    Gender 'Injustice' Behind Call to Reduce Taxes on Tampons

    How about the "gender injustice" that women, in aggregate, never pay net taxes?

  • Free Society||

    I forwarded this article to my wife, who will either agree with me fervently, or punch me in the ole nutsack upon my arrival home.

  • Radioactive||

    what's the over/under on the nut punch?

  • Free Society||

    50/50

  • Careless||

    50 nut punches?

  • Rhywun||

    We could probably play this game by slicing the population in all sorts of interesting ways. I'm sure that wouldn't cause any outrage at all.

  • Rational Exuberance||

    We could probably play this game by slicing the population in all sorts of interesting ways. I'm sure that wouldn't cause any outrage at all.

    The reason we're talking about this is because SJWs have sliced the population this way; this is a response to their accusations.

  • gaoxiaen||

    +1 Stuck in the Middle With You

  • Bubba Jones||

    If they were paid more, they would pay more in taxes...

  • Rational Exuberance||

    True. But the reason women aren't paid more is because they don't work more; that is, they choose to do things men can't do, like have kids. And in return, men support them financially. And there's nothing wrong with that arrangement in principle. What is wrong is that feminists then complain about the statistical consequences of those choices.

    In fact, women who choose to pursue male career paths (remain childless and single) generally do as well or better than men.

  • Paper Wasp||

    They are paid 97% of what men earn when they choose careers that men also choose, and remain in those careers full-time. If they choose to become computer programmers or lawyers, their salaries are nearly at parity. If you want to talk about where that missing 3% is, that might be a valid discussion.

  • Longtobefree||

    Gonzalez Fletcher, who had authored the diaper-tax measure, depicted the matter as one of "babies over booze."
    Does he mean women do not have a "choice" any more?
    I call discrimination against gays, who according to my made up projections, drink more than others, but have fewer babies.
    So much for equal protection.

  • damikesc||

    Cannot figure out why feminists aren't taken seriously. Why should MEN have to pay more for liquor because women menstruate?

  • All-Seeing Monocle||

    Indeed, I think it's self-evident that the former counts as a necessity due to the latter.

  • damikesc||

    Tampons and menstrual products are hardly a necessity for ME.

  • creech||

    How convenient that this new tax doesn't hit the California wine industry and the metrosexuals who drink Screaming Eagle Cab.

  • Paper Wasp||

    Welcome to another edition of Elitist Taxing, where we nanny the shit out of people who get food from fast-food drive-thrus (i.e. soda taxes, forcing chain restaurants to post calorie counts with everything on their menus), but we give people a pass when they eat "gourmet" poison.

    People eating from McDonald's, that's horrible!
    People eating $25 uncured free-range pepper-bacon burgers with six ounces of Rogue Valley small-batch cheese on an organic brioche from some trendy bearded hipster assholeria in La Jolla, oh, that's just fine.

    People who drink vodka they buy from the grocery store: human garbage! Tax the flesh off them!
    People who drink 2009 Syrah from Santa Barbara: Oh, they're cool.

  • B.P.||

    Cover picture: That's a thoughtful store putting the feminine hygiene products and cat food in the same aisle.

  • All-Seeing Monocle||

    Aren't these taxes for paying for indispensable government services? Why exempt things just because they're necessities? It's not like you want people to be able to opt out of funding the government, do you?

  • Free Society||

  • Rhywun||

    Oh come on that can't be real

  • Free Society||

    A fairly notorious sign from the women's march as I recall.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Don't we already pay for razors?

  • Brandybuck||

    Thanks to Remington, I don't pay for my razors, I pay for my blades. :-)

    But the key point is that I don't HAVE to buy razors, just as you don't HAVE to buy tampons.

  • Mickey Rat||

    So for Cristina Garcia, is it OK to tax products geared to support men's hygiene and health? If so, why? If not, why are you not supporting a repeal of taxes on all such health and hygiene products regardless of which sex they are used by?

  • μ Aggressor||

    something something but men need liquor when women need tampons something something

  • gaoxiaen||

    Double taxation on vodka tampons.

  • Free Society||

    Personally, I think women's hygiene products should be kept behind the counter and women should have to ask for them. Then the goods should be placed in a nondescript paper bag and the woman should then be forced to exit the store out of the back where no one can see her shame.

  • Libertarian||

    Alcoholism is a disease!! How can they, in good conscience, raise taxes on alcohol? It's insane!

  • Rhywun||

    tax hike on hard liquor

    Fuck you, cut spending.

  • Conchfritters||

    "Cut spending" - - never even entered the equation for these folks, and probably never will.

  • Rhywun||

    Cuomo blasted the tax as regressive—meaning it hurts the poor the most—and called it a "matter of social and economic justice."

    And immediately followed this with a demand to introduce legislation that would eliminate the state sales tax..... hahahah JK

  • Feminist Killjoy||

    This is simply adding insult to injury to women who can't drink while menstruating for medical reasons. Ie me. I'd kill for a drink, but it does the opposite of help. Anyway, I paid forty bucks for a menstrual cup years ago and I've forgotten what the diaper and feminine needs aisle looks like. You buy the black razors if they're cheaper than the pink ones. It's dumb stuff like this that creates MRAs who hate feminists, even though all of their good positions (equal parental rights for men et all) were often feminist positions.

  • Procyon Rotor||

    Well, when the largest feminist organization in the country, The National Organization for Women, has fought tooth and nail against shared parenting since 1986, it doesn't make it look like a feminist position. Rather, it makes it look somewhat reasonable to oppose feminists if you support equal rights.

  • BYODB||


    California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) explained that "tax breaks are the same as new spending—they both cost the general fund money."


    Maybe Moonbeam can explain how it could be that when taxes go down, revenue goes up. I'm not saying it always does, but in California I would almost guarantee that it would after years of overregulation and over taxation.

  • Juice||

    One of the more pleasant things I liked about visiting California was the low taxes on alcohol. It was all so cheap.

  • B.P.||

    I just about fell to the floor when I got a load of the liquor taxes on a visit to Seattle.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    It helps keep the homeless problem at bay.

  • Jima||

    I never knew Cali had a twat tax. That's something I learned today...I''l ponder that over a green beer later. I had an idea along the lines of the old Boston Tea Party, but a bunch of tampons floating in the harbor seems a little obscene.

  • Brandybuck||

    A bunch of tampons floating in San Fransisco Bay might actually freshen the place up...

  • Brandybuck||

    Disposable diapers and tampons are not necessities. Let's start with disposable diapers. Disposable. When I was a baby my dad loved them cotton diapers. Why? Because after a million washings you ended up with a polishing cloth that made a chamois look like sandpaper. Disposable diapers are not a necessity, since once can always choose a cloth diaper. ***OR*** choose no diapers at all. Seriously, diapers are not universal across all cultures and times. Modern diapers are merely modern conveniences.

    And in a way, so are tampons. Tampons are modern of course, but what about disposable pads? Also modern. Again, keyword is "disposable". Washable pads are a thing. Also non cloth alternatives. Or even... going without! (You really think our prehistoric maternal ancestors had pads?)

    Of course, as a libertarian I don't want taxes on these products. But I don't want taxes on anything. If we have to have a tax it needs to be low and it ALSO needs to be universal. A low sales tax on all sold products is fine. It's the picking and choosing of privileged products that's the real problem here.

  • buybuydandavis||

    Common sense is that liquor is a choice and a luxury and human biology is not

    But what you do about that biology is a choice.

    Isn't "Free Bleeding" the hot new thing? How dare anyone say that stopping up menstrual blood is a requirement of human biology?

    Free the Flow! Free the Flow!

  • Miss C||

    My instinct is to support a tax break for feminine hygiene products. I am post menopausal, and have no skin in the game. I do, however, drink liquor every night. I am against most taxes, but if taxes are to be assessed, tax my pleasure seeking over female necessities!

  • BambiB||

    You mean Governor Moonbeam isn't the dumbest libtard in Kalifornia?

    Whoda thunk it?

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