No more 'pink tax' in Texas? Bill eliminating tampon, diaper sales taxes OK'd by House

ByEleanor Klibanoff, The Texas Tribune
Wednesday, March 29, 2023
Bill eliminating tampon, diaper sales taxes OK'd by Texas House
The bill would remove sales tax on diapers, baby wipes, bottles, feminine hygiene products, maternity clothing, and products for pumping breast milk.

Texas families would be spared sales tax on menstrual products and some baby supplies under a bill that passed the Texas House of Representatives on a 145-2 vote on Wednesday.

House Speaker Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont, designated House Bill 300 a top priority for the first legislative session after the overturn of Roe v. Wade. The bill will move next to the Senate side.

The proposal, filed by Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, removes sales tax on diapers, baby wipes, and bottles; menstrual supplies, including tampons, sanitary pads, and menstrual cups; maternity clothing; and products for pumping breast milk. After an amendment on the third reading from Rep. Bryan Slaton, R-Royse City, adult diapers would also be tax-exempt.

If passed, the measure would cost the state an estimated $194 million in lost sales tax over two years, according to the Legislative Budget Board.

At a House hearing in early March, dozens of people spoke or filed written testimony in favor of the bill. Emily Adams, vice chair of the Austin Diaper Bank, testified with her infant daughter, Opal, in her arms. She said this bill would help the Texas economy, noting that some families are unable to send their children to daycare because they can't afford the required diapers.

"Not only are children missing out on critical early learning experiences and academic and social development, parents and caregivers are forced to drop out of the workforce, resulting in a loss of wages," Adams said. "Without employee prospects, small businesses face a hiring desert."

Diapers can cost $100 or more per month, per child, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. The only financial assistance, other than nonprofit diaper banks, comes from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program - and Texas' TANF program gives low-income families less direct cash assistance than almost any state.

The maternity care items are a more recent addition to this legislation, which Howard has filed every session since 2017. Previous versions of the bill focused more on addressing "period poverty" by removing the sales tax on tampons.

In Texas, teenage girls have led the movement to make Texas the 24th state to remove sales tax on menstrual products. The group has argued in legal filings and legislative hearings that menstrual supplies should qualify as wound care dressings, which are exempt from sales tax, and that by excluding them, Texas is discriminating on the basis of sex.

The movement has gained momentum in the months since the overturning of Roe v. Wade, as Texas banned abortion and Republican legislators sought to show their support for mothers and children. In addition to Phelan's stamp of approval, Comptroller Glenn Hegar and Gov. Greg Abbott both voiced their support for eliminating the tax.

"Governor Abbott fully supports exempting feminine hygiene products from state and local sales tax," Renae Eze, a spokesperson for the governor, told The Texas Tribune in August. "These are essential products for women's health and quality of life, and the Governor looks forward to working with the legislature in the next session to remove this tax burden on Texas women."

The bill is expected to move next to the Senate Finance Committee. Houston Republican Sen. Joan Huffman, who chairs the committee, and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick have also voiced support for such "common-sense tax exemptions," as Patrick called them.

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