Illinois is now the third state in the nation this year, following New York and Connecticut, to announce it will stop taxing feminine hygiene products.
Last week, Gov. Bruce Rauner signed a law that eliminates sales taxes on tampons and menstrual pads. The change takes effect Jan. 1.
Illinois, New York, and Connecticut lead a larger group of 15 states where similar legislation aimed at abolishing taxes on feminine hygiene products were recently introduced, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, a nonpartisan law and public policy institute at New York University Law School.
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The Illinois measure, sponsored by state Sen. Melina Bush, D-Grayslake, was adopted unanimously last spring by both houses of the Illinois General Assembly.
Bush said she would continue pushing to expand the tax exemption to other products. Her original bill included other feminine hygiene items, as well as incontinence products.
"This is just the start of a conversation about the unfair 'pink taxes' women face as they buy products priced higher than similar ones marketed to men or, in this case, as they have to spend on products that men don't," Bush said in a prepared statement.
Alysia Tate, director of programs for the Chicago-based nonprofit Chicago Foundation for Women, a philanthropic organization focused on empowering women and girls, said the taxation of feminine hygiene items has only now been included in the national dialogue because the issue hasn't had too many female advocates in power in the past.
"I think historically we haven't had enough women in positions of leadership to catch these kinds of inequities in our systems and our taxing systems," Tate said. "I appreciate that now we have strong female voices at the state legislature and in the city council who are able to point out that, 'Hey, this is not a luxury item at all, this is not an optional item at all. This is something that's medically necessary for every single woman."
The average sales tax is 6.25 across the state, although the rate can reach as high as 10.25 percent in Chicago, due to city and county surcharges.
The Illinois Department of Revenue reports the discontinuation of the taxes will cost Illinois between $10-15 million annually, calculated with the base state rate. It estimates the state's overall sales tax revenues will hit nearly $1 billion in the current fiscal year.
Striking the hygiene product taxes and removing a significant disadvantage to women will prove a win-win for the state, Tate said. "Investing in women and women's economic security really tends to help everyone," Tate said.