Feminine hygiene products could be tax exempt if new Ohio bill passes

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="1000"] Ohio lawmakers proposed a bill that would eliminate sales tax from feminine hygiene products. According to State Representative Brigid Kelly the state would miss out on approximately $4 million per year in tax revenue if the “pink tax” was cut. (PHOTO ILLUSTRATION by Laila Riaz)[/caption]

The “tampon tax” is under attack after two Ohio state representatives proposed a bill slashing sales tax on feminine hygiene products in Ohio.

Ohio House Bill 61 was proposed by state Reps. Greta Johnson, D-Akron, and Brigid Kelly, D-Cincinnati. The bill would make pads and tampons, which are currently considered “luxury” items in Ohio, exempt from sales tax. Other hygiene products, such as soap and toothpaste are tax-exempt because they are deemed a “necessity.”

“It’s an unconstitutional tax,” Johnson said. “Some people look at this and laugh it off. It’s near pennies. … Those pennies add up over our lifetime.”

Ohio is among 38 states that imposes sales tax on tampons and pads. A year’s supply could cost more than $70, according to the 2014 Shriver Report, an annual report that deals with women’s issues. Advocates estimated the bill could save a woman up to $1,700 throughout her lifetime. The state would miss out on approximately $4 million a year if the tax was cut, Kelly said.

“Just to put it bluntly, sales taxes of all kinds on basic things people need are regressive because it hits poor people harder,” Patty Stokes, an assistant professor of women’s, gender and sexuality studies, said. “It seems like it is overtly discriminatory.”

Similar bills have been introduced in past years, but they did not have enough support to pass.

H.B. 61 has 20 co-sponsors, including three Republicans. Johnson said she is glad some Republicans signed onto the bill because they hold a majority in the Ohio House.

“I’d love to see the bill pass,” Johnson said. “We did have a couple Republicans sign on as co-sponsors, so I’m hopeful. The fact that Democrats introduced the bill does not bode well.”

The bill was referred to the Ways and Means committee on Feb. 21.

Maddie Sloat, a sophomore studying communication, said her student organization, The Period Project, is rooting for the bill to pass through the Ohio House and Senate. The Period Project is an organization that raises money to purchase feminine products for schools, prisons and homeless shelters.

“We are going to be writing and calling and giving as much support as we can for this bill,” Sloat said. “It would make it easier for us to donate to local charities and homeless shelters and schools because we wouldn’t have to pay the tax.”

Sloat said female representation in government is important and she is glad two female representatives introduced the bill. Johnson said approximately 52 percent of the Ohio population is female, but less than 25 percent of people in office are women.

“Intersectionality is everything,” Sloat said. “Our country is a diverse country. If you’re claiming to represent those people, who better to represent them than people who share their values and experiences?”

Stokes said the next step should be providing public institutions with free feminine hygiene products, following suit with New York. The New York City Council approved a free tampon program last June. The measure provides feminine hygiene products to public schools, homeless shelters and prisons free of charge.

“We have toilet paper available,” Stokes said. “Anything you might need to do in the bathroom, it ought to be provided. … I would love to see that happen here. … This needs to be recognized as a public responsibility.”



 Originally published for The Post on Feb. 28, 2017.