For Louisianans of limited means, the state’s over-reliance on sales tax is a particular burden. People with lower incomes spend a higher proportion of what they have to make ends meet than those who are in the position to save. That’s what makes the state’s existing sales tax exemption on necessities — a remnant of the sensible but mostly dismantled Stelly Plan tax reform of 2002 — among the most compassionate tax policies on the books.
But fundamental needs don’t stop at the groceries, utilities, and prescriptions specified under Stelly. Common sense dictates that the category should also include feminine hygiene products as well as diapers for young children and adults.
Clearly these aren’t discretionary purchases, but the law treats them that way. The extra cost falls disproportionately on women — hence the nickname “pink tax” — leaving them paying more, or worse, living with the discomfort and shame of going unprotected. Proponents of measures such as this also raise the question of fairness: What sense does it make to tax tampons, they ask, but not Viagra?
It doesn’t. That's one reason why we support House Bill 7 by state Rep. Aimee Adatto Freeman, D-New Orleans, which passed unanimously through the House Ways and Means Committee this week. The bill would remove state sales tax on sanitary products and diapers. It would also leave in place an option passed last year to exempt them from local sales tax, as New Orleans has already done.
There would be a cost to the Treasury, an estimated $11 million per year, but that wouldn’t make much of a dent in the budget. For individuals living close to the edge, though, it could make a significant difference in their bottom lines, and their daily lives.