Collection of pads, liners and tampons

The East Baton Rouge Parish Metro Council will vote Wednesday on whether to exempt diapers and feminine hygiene products from the city-parish's 2% sales tax as part of a move to offer economic relief to families struggling amid the coronavirus pandemic.

If approved, the tax cut would take effect on Jan. 1 and expire at the end of 2021. It would apply to both adult and child diapers, as well as tampons, menstrual pads, sanitary napkins, panty liners, menstrual sponges and menstrual cups purchased in city of Baton Rouge and unincorporated areas of the parish. 

The proposal was introduced by Councilwoman Erika Green and was made possible by state legislation enacted in August. New Orleans approved a similar measure that month.

"This will directly impact the pocketbooks of our most vulnerable residents," Green said. 

The exemption only applies to the 2% sales tax levied by the city-parish. It does not erase the half-cent sales taxes for the MovEBR infrastructure program and sewage maintenance.

The measure also wouldn't apply to purchases made in the cities of Zachary, Baker and Central, which levy their own sales tax and aren't covered by the city-parish's general sales tax. 

Data on consumer purchases of the exempted products is scarce, but a rough analysis from the parish's finance department estimates that the city-parish could lose out on around $180,000 in tax revenue in 2021 if the measure is approved. 

State Rep. Barbara Freiberg, R-Baton Rouge, one of several co-sponsors of the state legislation, penned a letter to her former colleagues on the Metro Council in support of the measure and in an interview called it a "worthy exemption."

"These are purchases that are necessities for daily life. They're certainly not luxury items," Freiberg said. 

Michelle Erenberg, the executive director of Lift Louisiana, a left-leaning women's advocacy group, said the exemption may not seem like a lot, but for families struggling economically, every dollar counts. 

She estimated that the average family spends $1450 per child annually on diapers and would save $30 with the exemption, and that the average woman woman spends $156 annually on feminine hygiene products and would save around $3.

Erenberg said she'd next like to see the state legislature pass a state sales tax exemption on diapers and feminine hygiene products. A measure doing that was approved by both chambers of the state legislature in 2019 but didn't make it out of conference committee before the session ended. 

The Metro Council will consider the measure at its regularly scheduled meeting at 4 p.m. on Wednesday. Residents wishing to offer public comment to council members will be able to do so via a live feed on the fourth floor of the River Center Branch Library, next door to City Hall. 


Email Blake Paterson at bpaterson@theadvocate.com and follow him on Twitter @blakepater