By Adam Benson
Local social service providers and clinicians on Monday threw their support behind a legislative proposal that would exempt feminine hygiene products and diapers from the state’s 6.35 percent sales tax.
“When you’re trying to make your money stretch, those are things you can’t really give up,” said Nicolle Hill, community outreach coordinator for the Thompson Ecumenical Empowerment Group, which partners with the Interfaith Human Services of Putnam to run a diaper bank.
The measure, Senate Bill 216, was the subject of a hearing Monday before the General Assembly’s Public Health Committee. The provision mirrors a bill first raised last year by state Sen. Mae Flexer, D-Killingly, and Democratic state Rep. Kelly Luxenberg, of Manchester, which never made it out of committee.
Luxenberg co-sponsored Senate Bill 216 by herself, but Flexer said Monday she strongly supports the effort.
Waiving the tax would put Connecticut on a short list of just five other states that have done so, according to the Permanent Commission on the Status of Women.
The commission said over the first two years of a baby’s life, he or she will use about 3,800 disposable diapers at a cost of about $18 a week, or $936 annually per child.
“When you are taxing a product that is a biological necessity, that is required – there is no alternative, frankly, whether it’s for feminine hygiene products or diapers,” Carolyn Treiss, the commission’s executive director, said in a statement. “It’s an issue of fairness, and it’s an issue of who we are taxing as a result of biology. That’s why we care about this.”
Hill said the Windham County diaper bank supplies 24 diapers per household per child, and has between 10 and 15 families.
Because diapers aren’t covered under federal supplemental programs, paying for them falls directly onto the shoulders of families.
Currently, the state sales tax does not apply to incontinence pads for adults. A fiscal note attached to the 2015 version of the bill said Connecticut could lose up to $4.3 million in annual revenues should the exemption be granted.
Still, it’s a price worth paying, proponents say.
“These taxes disproportionately impact women and this legislation will create more tax equity and fairness. We acknowledge that our state is facing fiscal challenges with the budget but the burden should not be put on the women and families in our state. Although the state currently considers feminine hygiene products ‘luxury goods,’ it’s time to recognize that they are necessary products determined by our biological sex,” Gretchen Raffa, director of public policy, advocacy and strategic engagement for Planned Parenthood of Southern New England, said in prepared testimony.
Daryl Hurlock, director of women’s services for the Hartford HealthCare East Region that includes The William W. Backus Hospital in Norwich and Windham Hospital, echoed that.
“For young families raising children, you have to make choices often, and any time there’s an opportunity to benefit from a tax break, it allows you to do something else that improves family life,” she said. “But this is one of those things you can’t make a choice about.”