As the topic of accessibility to hygiene products has erupted on the University of Wisconsin campus, the Associated Students of Madison’s Equity and Inclusion Committee hosted State Rep. Melissa Sargent, D–Madison, to discuss her legislation on reproductive health issues within the state.
Sargent discussed the need to get rid of the “tampon tax” at the Thursday event titled, “Eliminating the Tax on Menstrual Hygiene Products.”
The tampon tax refers to the five percent sales tax which is added onto sanitary products.
As an “outspoken advocate” for “menstrual equality,” Sargent said she pushes for legislation eliminating the tax because of inequity in how men and women are taxed for health products.
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In the past, Sargent has introduced legislation that would provide menstrual products to all state-owned and state-funded bathrooms. Sargent said she pushed resolutions to address these issues to provide true bathroom safety and equity in public health.
In addition, Sargent said eliminating the tampon tax will combat the “transphobic rhetoric” of women’s safety in bathrooms.
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California recently proposed legislation to eliminate the sales tax on menstrual products, Sargent said. The bill received bipartisan support in the state Legislature.
Unfortunately, Sargent said California Gov. Jerry Brown subsequently vetoed the bill.
In her legislation, however, Sargent admitted certain limitations exist.
“With the way the bill is currently written, [menstrual products] would only be in women’s bathrooms,” Sargent said.
The legislation, as it currently stands, would primarily affect transgender people and people with non-binary gender identities who need menstrual products, but who do not use women’s bathrooms, Sargent said.
Sargent said she would be willing to create further legislation to address this issue and to include menstrual products in other bathrooms.
Opponents of the legislation have argued the tax would have to be offset by taxing something else, Sargent said. In California’s situation, representatives argued a tax on alcohol would be able to offset the tax, she added.
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Despite critics calling for the need to offset the tax onto another product, Sargent said she did not want to create a tax on alcohol like California did.
Instead, Sargent said there is no example of men being taxed where women are not — and that must change with the elimination of the tampon tax.
“We don’t have to offset it with anything,” Sargent said. “The right thing to do is to address the issue.”