Over the weekend we talked about the rather silly decision at Brown University to start stocking the men’s room with tampons and sanitary napkins. (Because not everyone who menstruates is a woman, right guys?) While that topic was more fodder for humor than anything else, it did lead me into a separate discussion of why so many states allow taxes on feminine hygiene products when other bathroom supplies such as toilet paper are tax free based on their categorization as “essential” home products. As I wrote at the time, that seems to be a flatly unfair approach to taxation. If you can make the argument that everyone needs toilet paper and it should therefore not be taxed, one can readily make the same case for these mandatory supplies for the ladies. What’s up with that?
Not everyone agrees with me, however, and that includes the Governor of California. Jerry Brown just vetoed a bill which would have moved these products into the same category and made them tax free for all Californians. (Route Fifty)
Gov. Jerry Brown has vetoed a bill today that would have ended California’s tax on feminine hygiene products, along with six other bills that carried implications for the state’s tax revenue.
Had Assembly Bill 1561 been signed, it would have made California the fourth state to discontinue its “tampon tax.”
Speaking on his decision to veto the bills, Gov. Brown said “tax breaks are the same as new spending” and that he didn’t feel comfortable signing bills that would create or expand tax breaks that, in all, would have added up to about $300 million per year in lost revenue.
This one defies logical explanation and if Governor Brown finds himself in hot water, particularly with women, he’s earned every tongue lashing heading his way. First of all, I thought it was the Republicans who were engaged in the “war on women” around the country, but clearly Brown is suited up and ready to take to the battlefield. We hear plenty of arguments about social justice which I regularly mock because of the hypersensitivity of America’s special snowflakes, but at least in terms of gender equity and issues which are directly controlled by the government, this is a completely legitimate complaint. We can have a debate over what qualifies as “essential products” and if they should be tax exempt if you like, but if you’re going to make toilet paper tax free then doing the same for feminine hygiene products is a no brainer. And yes, failing to do so affects only one gender so it’s a clear case of discrimination.
So why isn’t a progressive Democrat like Brown on board with the plan? Because it would cut into the state’s tax revenue. That’s not a a good enough excuse, sir. $300M is a lot of money to be sure, but it’s not a deal breaker in a state with an economy larger than all but ten of the nations on the planet. And even if it was crippling… boo hoo. You’ll need to find the money elsewhere. You don’t get to be “progressive” and bash your opponents on gender equality questions and then bail out when you don’t like the look of your budget numbers.