Two members of the Chicago City Council introduced an ordinance this week to eliminate the city tax on tampons and pads, saying the cost is discriminatory against women and unfairly penalizes them. Feminine hygiene products are currently taxed as luxury items, at 10.25 percent.
Edward Burke, the chairman of the council’s finance committee, and council member Leslie Hairston want to exempt tampons and pads from city taxes by reclassifying them as medical appliances in the municipal code.
“This tax only affects women. Is that fair? Especially when sanitary products are medical necessities?” Burke said in a press release. “These are not luxury items, and Chicago needs to lead the way in eliminating this unfair tax.”
Burke introduced the ordinance after reading an op-ed published Monday by The New York Times editorial board, urging state legislators to eliminate the state tax on tampons and pads to make the items more affordable. Some women from lower-income families and the homeless struggle to afford the items, the board noted.
“Removing the tax in Chicago and lowering it in Illinois would help to make these products more affordable to women, especially poor women,” Hairston said.
On Wednesday, the proposal was sent to the finance committee chaired by Burke. If it decides to advance the measure, the City Council will vote on it as early as March 16, according to Donal Quinlan, Burke's spokesman. If a majority votes in favor of the proposal, the total tax rate could drop by 1.25 percent by mid-April, when the measure would be enacted and the city tax proportion of the total rate is scrapped.
Burke and Hairston also introduced two companion resolutions to urge state authorities to lower the total tax rate to 1 percent. The 10.25 percent tax rate on feminine hygiene products is currently composed of a 6.25 percent state tax, 1.75 percent county tax and a 1 percent Regional Transportation Authority tax.
While eliminating the city tax of 1.25 percent would only slightly reduce the items’ price, Burke hopes Chicago can take the lead in bringing this to the attention of other municipalities, Quinlan said, “and join the movement."
Five states have already introduced legislation to scrap the tampon tax: California, Utah, Ohio, Virginia and New York.
In New York, Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras is also drafting legislation that would provide free tampons and pads to girls and women in public schools, prisons and shelters.