Colorado bill that would exempt state from 'tampon tax' passes first committee

DENVER – A bill in the Colorado Legislature that would exempt a state sales tax on feminine hygiene products cleared its first committee Monday.

House Bill 1127, which would exempt the state sales tax on tampons, menstrual pads and sanitary napkins, pantiliners, menstrual sponges and menstrual cups, is co-sponsored by Rep. Susan Lontine, D-Denver, and Sen. Beth Martinez Humenik, an Adams County Republican.

The bill passed the House Finance Committee Monday by a 7-6 party-line vote. All Democrats on the committee voted to pass the bill, while all six Republicans voted against its passage.

“Having a period is not a choice, and these products are a necessity,” said Rep. Susan Lontine (D-Denver) in a statement that followed the vote. “We shouldn’t tax a woman for being a woman.”

The Colorado bill classifies feminine hygiene products as a drug, medical or therapeutic devices. The exemption would go into effect starting Jan. 1, 2018 if the bill becomes law.

Several other “basic necessities,” including groceries, are not taxed in the state.

The fiscal impact report on the bill from the Colorado Legislative Council says, if approved, the exemption would cost Colorado $1.2 million in state tax revenue to the General Fund in FY 2017-18 and $2.4 million in FY 2018-19, when it would be applied for the full fiscal year.

The report says an estimated 1.5 million women in the state are of typical menstruating age and estimates each woman spends $60 a year on feminine hygiene products, generating about $2 each year per person.

Opponents questioned whether the bill unfairly benefits only women by singling out feminine hygiene products.

"I think it's a carve out," said Rep. Polly Lawrence (R-Roxborough Park), who said that the bill should have been broader. "There are products that senior citizens use, and if this ids about the impacts and the costs for struggling families, I think we need to look at the cost that everyone pays, not just women." 

The bill would allow local municipalities and counties to adopt the exemption as well.

The fiscal impact report says those exemptions could cost the Regional Transportation District about $740,000 over the next two years, and the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District about $74,000.

Women around the world have fought the tax in recent years, saying it is a basic necessity and should not be subject to taxation.

Canada repealed its so-called “tampon tax” in 2015, but around 40 U.S. states still tax the products.

House Bill 1127 will head to the House Appropriations Committee for its next hearing.

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