R. Kyle Alagood

Gadfly. Writer. Activist. Transparency Advocate. Proud Former Food Stamp & Medicaid Kid. Believer in Barbara Jordan's America. TBD.

Eliminate This Useless Tax, Period

John Bel Edwards and David Vitter have made a cottage industry of complaining about taxes, tax credits, or both. The need to reevaluate tax credits for big businesses is perhaps the only issue common to both men’s campaigns. However, there is one important issue neither candidate will address: Why does Louisiana still tax women’s periods? Vitter and Edwards must take a stand for equality and pledge to repeal sales taxes on tampons, pads and other menstrual products.

Growing up with three older sisters, I always knew that a woman’s period was inevitable — like death and taxes. But taxes on menstruation are not inevitable. (Neither are taxes on death, as shown by the persistent political debate on federal estate taxes.) Sure, tampons and pads are not usually thought of as polite conversation starters or gubernatorial debate fodder. It’s safe to bet that most men (admittedly including myself) avoid the feminine hygiene aisle at the pharmacy. But silence and awkwardness should not prevent us from having a mature conversation about an issue that has, does, or will affect more than half the state’s population.

Menstruation is a fact of life for around 940,000 girls and women in Louisiana. For more than 150,000 of them, poverty is another fact of life.

In 2013, the Center for American Progress analyzed economics, leadership opportunities and women’s health across the country. Louisiana was ranked the worst state for women. Taxes on menstrual products add to the burden of being a poverty-stricken woman in Louisiana. Although sales taxes are only pennies on the dollar, those of us who have lived on food stamps and neighbors’ charity know that every penny counts. Sales taxes are even more onerous for women, considering they make, on average, only 67 cents to every dollar a man makes in Louisiana.

Louisiana rightly does not charge state sales tax on groceries and prescriptions. Menstrual products should be no different. Levying sales tax on tampons and pads makes even less sense in light of some other sales-tax exemptions. We do not have to pay state sales tax for beer at a Saints game. Mardi Gras beads, Girl Scout cookies, race horses bought at claiming races and hundreds of other sundry items are all exempt from the state sales tax. But for the products that allow girls and women to leave the house without fear of blood staining their trousers — state and local governments want their pound of flesh.

The candidates for governor have the opportunity to take a lead nationally and signal that Louisiana is committed to making women’s lives better. Cutting taxes on pads and tampons would save a little money for all women, promote equality and provide a glimpse of bipartisan policy helping the most vulnerable women in Louisiana. It’s good politics, good policy, and good economics.

Cross-posted from The Times (Shreveport, La.)

Image courtesy of By The Period Blog, http://www.theperiodblog.com (Playtex Sport Regular Scented Tampon Review), [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.

R. Kyle • October 28, 2015


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