- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 24, 2018

PHOENIX (AP) - An Arizona House panel on Wednesday advanced a proposal exempting diapers and feminine hygiene products like tampons from sales taxes, but its fate remained unclear because it would cut state revenue.

Democratic Rep. Daniel Hernandez of Tucson is pushing the proposal for the second year as a way to give a tax break to low-income families.

The bill would cut $7 million in state revenue. A split House Ways and Means Committee approved the measure on a 5-4 vote, with three Democrats and two Republicans in support and three Republicans voting no.

Hernandez’s bill has three Republican co-sponsors this year, including Ways and Means Chair Michelle Ugenti-Rita. She backs the proposal but acknowledged it will be part of a larger budget discussion.

“I think there is an acknowledgement that these products are necessities and there is a willingness to look at the tax and potentially get rid of it,” Ugenti-Rita said in an interview. “But whether that can fit into the budget and make it over other priorities is still up in the air.”

During committee testimony Wednesday, a young woman said her mother and five sisters had struggled at times to scrape up enough cash for menstrual products.

“During the divorce at one point I sat down with my mom and my sisters at the kitchen table and we had to barter tampons,’ Ashley Ware said. “My mom couldn’t afford a box of tampons before payday. We had to figure out who needed the tampons the most, who felt comfortable asking somebody at work or school the next day.”

Ware, whose blended family also includes a stepmother, said the cut to state revenues would be small but make a big impact.

The proposed exemption extends to adult and infant diapers, and includes most common feminine hygiene products. Exempting tampons from taxes has been a common theme in some state legislatures, with Florida in January becoming the latest of about a dozen to make the move.

Dianne Post, a lobbyist for the National Organization for Women, notes that Arizona already exempts lottery tickets, Viagra, tourist magazines and a host of other products from sales taxes.

Republican Rep. Vince Leach opposed the measure last year, saying “life is life” and there are responsibilities when people chose to have children that includes paying taxes on added products.

“There’s been nothing presented to me in the last year that would change my position on this from a no vote,” he said Wednesday.

The proposal now does to the House Health Committee where it stalled last year. It likely will also be shuttled to the Appropriations Committee, where it must be juggled with other state issues.

Republican Rep. Jeff Weninger voted to advance the bill but with a bit of heartburn, noting that Democrats are constantly bemoaning the need for more school spending and teacher raises. He said he felt pressured by backers of the bill to back it to prove he and other Republicans care for children and the elderly.

- The legislation is House Bill 2217

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