Nice try, California, but not good enough 

Last week, two bills passed unanimously in California — Senate Bill 92 and Assembly Bill 31 — both proposals to exempt menstrual products from state sales tax. 

Time to pop the champagne? Not quite. Once the bills are put into effect, tampons and pads sold in California will only be tax-exempt for two years.

The “tampon tax,” as it is widely known, will take a temporary leave of absence from California during the period of January 1, 2020 until January 1, 2022. 

Back in May, Governor Gavin Newsom similarly introduced this time-limited tax cut in his revised budget proposal. He was praised by his constituents, many of whom cheered that the fight to remove the tampon tax was nearing its end. 

The Governor signed off on the budget on June 27. Newsom expressed that the tax exemption was long overdue and “the right thing to do.” We agree completely. 

But if this issue is so salient, why is it only being addressed for a two-year period? Does this bill fully prioritize the dignity of those who menstruate and need access to these products, or is it simply a convenient talking point for the budget? 

While we’d like to celebrate another win in our ongoing fight to eliminate the tampon tax California compromise is not good enough. And we shouldn’t settle for a quick fix.

If we do, we risk losing the growing momentum of menstrual activism throughout the state, as Californians settle into this impermanent solution and grow complacent. When 2022 rolls around, and the tampon tax goes back into effect, we will have to renew the same fight all over again.

California’s budget fix should be seen as an incremental victory, and therefore, an incomplete one. There are still 34 other states taxing our periods, and we say it is time for a legal intervention.

Temporary solutions are not acceptable — which is why Tax Free. Period. is raising the stakes. We are mobilizing legal action to eliminate the tampon tax nationwide.

The access and affordability of menstrual products is not a temporary issue. We need these items month after month, year after year. Writing menstruation into our laws sets a crucial precedent: that our reproductive health is valued by our states and the law.

Although California legislators have made a step in the right direction, we should not have to revisit this fight again in 2022. Now is the time to make a permanent legal change.

 Live in California? Take our pledge at taxfreeperiod.com and tell your state leaders how you feel about the tax on menstrual products.

- Sarah Wolf, Period Equity