BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The Senate Committee on Revenue and Fiscal Affairs approved a bill Monday, April 22 that would allow Louisiana voters to decide if diapers and feminine hygiene products should be exempt from state sales tax collections.
It would cost Louisiana about $10 million each year to leave that money in taxpayers’ pockets, should New Orleans Democrat Sen. JP Morrell’s bill be approved by the legislature, then by voters through a constitutional amendment.
“We’ve established in our constitution that we do not tax items that are deemed essential to the life, liberty, and happiness of our citizens,” Morrell said. "Feminine hygiene products and diapers are simply not optional. If you need those items, you need those items.”
The state currently exempts prescription medicine, utilities, and food for home consumption from state sales taxing. Morrell’s bill would allow local governments to decide whether they want to collect the tax on diapers and feminine hygiene products, or exempt it themselves.
“It’s really about the cost of things,” Louisiana Partnership for Children and Families Director Susan Nelson said in an interview with WAFB. "Every penny that we can put back into the pocketbooks of working families is something that will make a difference in their household budget.”
Morrell has filed similar legislation in previous sessions, but budget concerns stalled the bills in the Senate. During the state’s recurring budget crises, lawmakers were hesitant to leave any money on the table that could be used to stave off cuts to higher education and healthcare.
But the state is operating under a surplus for the first time in a decade, meaning lawmakers may find the idea more palatable. Morrell told lawmakers the bill would have a “trickle down” effect because families would have more to spend on other things.
“Our taxes and our budget are moral documents and we say where our priorities are going to be as a state for our families,” Nelson said. "The question is not ‘Can we handle it?’ It is a question of whether we want to handle it.”
Morrell’s bill will advance to the Senate floor, although it could be reassigned to the Senate Finance Committee for further approval before full debate.