A new bill might kill the ‘tampon tax’ in Texas
In most ways, Ciara Ryan looks like your typical college student during midterms, frantically running around trying to complete all of her tasks before the sweet relief of Spring Break.
However, there’s one thing about Ryan that makes her stand out: She’s hauling around a box full of 400 pads, tampons and liners – which, as you might imagine, is a pretty big box.
Ryan is the external director for the University of Texas at Austin’s Communication Council, a group of students who represent the university’s Moody College of Communication. She and the Communication Council provide free period products in the women’s restrooms in the school’s Dealey Center for New Media.
Ryan said these products are especially important for low-income students who might have trouble affording new products every month, and that even a small reduction in price can make a big difference in their lives.
“An extra 50 cents does count to a lot of people,” Ryan told The Texas Newsroom.
Ten minutes away from the university at the Texas Capitol, state Rep. Donna Howard is working to remove those extra dollars and cents from the cost of period products. The Democrat has authored a bill that would exempt period products from sales tax – often referred to as the “tampon tax.”
Many states have exempted these products from sales tax in recent years. Although bills attempting to remove the tax have cropped up in recent Texas legislative sessions, they have not become law. However, Republican House Speaker Dade Phelan announced it as one of his top priorities this year.
Howard, who has tried to remove the tax in past sessions, said that she has been particularly inspired by young women advocating for the elimination of the tax, especially when it comes to removing the stigma around periods.
“When I was a young person, and even as an older person, there were comments made about women, especially if you were having an off day. People would say, ‘Oh, she must be on the rag,’” Howard said.”I’m not hearing that now, especially from the young people of today.”
Supporters of the bill say that it’s unfair to tax period products when other items like groceries and over-the-counter drugs are exempt from sales tax.
Jocelyn Yow, the legislative advocacy director for IGNITE, an organization that empowers young women in politics, said period products can be an additional financial burden on families without money to spare.
“It’s so important to make sure that we’re leveling the playing field,” Yow said. “Those who are menstruating shouldn’t have to pay for this additional burden.”
And it’s not just period products. Howard’s proposal would also exempt a wide variety of additional necessities – including supplies for pregnant and nursing parents, like diapers, breast pumps and maternity clothes – from sales tax. She said that, financial considerations aside, passing the bill would send a broader message to Texans.
“I think showing support for women by recognizing and finally doing something about the discriminatory tax on feminine hygiene products is a big statement that says we’re going to be supporting women in the legislative session,” Howard said.
Ryan agrees with her.
“If the sales tax were eliminated, it would be more of a reassuring thing,” she said. “Like someone cares and understands the issues I’m facing on a daily basis.”
She thinks her work providing period products to students reminds them there is someone invested in their physical health and well-being – and this new bill would do the same for all Texans, she said.
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