A bill that would exempt menstrual products from sales tax is moving toward becoming law.
Senate Bill 5147, sponsored by Sen. Lynda Wilson, R-Vancouver, would make sanitary napkins, tampons, menstrual cups and other products exempt from state and local sales taxes.
The Senate unanimously approved the bill Saturday. The bill will go to the House, which has only a few days to act before the 2020 session adjourns Thursday.
The bill, if approved by the House and signed by Gov. Jay Inslee, would take effect July 1. The bill specifically exempts menstrual products from the state’s requirement that tax preferences expire after 10 years.
According to Period Equity, which advocates for elimination of so-called tampon taxes, 31 states tax menstrual products. The list of 19 states that do not tax menstrual products includes five states with no sales taxes — Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire and Oregon — so only 14 states have exempted them from sales taxes.
Wilson, speaking on the Senate floor Saturday, said she started receiving emails on this issue shortly after she was first elected to the Legislature in 2014.
“I think if somebody told me six years ago that I would be standing on the Senate floor today talking about menstrual products, I would have told them they were crazy,” she said. “But here I am doing that.”
Menstrual products are one of the biggest needs for homeless women, Wilson said. Exempting these products from sales taxes would increase access and use, with positive health implications, she said.
“I just would like to have you join me in voting for this bill,” Wilson said. “Simply put, we need to pass this bill. It’s the right thing to do — period.”
Her comment triggered laughter and light applause from senators.
Sen. Randi Becker, R-Olympia, also spoke in favor of the bill. “But I am disappointed it was not retroactive,” the 71-year-old said.
Sen. Keith Wagoner, R-Sedro-Woolley, said SB 5147 is one of the few bills to cut taxes that have come before the Senate this session.
“And it’s not just tax relief for women,” he said. “It’s tax relief for families because this involves a family budget and every dollar or cent that families have in their budget to reserve for other things is a good thing.”
Estimates indicate that the bill, if it becomes law, would decrease state revenues by $4.6 million a year and local government revenues by $2 million a year.
Sales tax is 8.4 percent in most parts of Clark County.