By Scott Reeder -
SPRINGFIELD – Tax relief is sailing through the legislature.
Property taxes? Income taxes? Gasoline taxes? Nope. Not yet.
But it looks like we are heading toward eliminating the tampon tax. The measure passed out of the Senate unanimously and it is waiting to be assigned to a committee in the House.
If it becomes law, it will be a victory for taxpaying families. After all, tampons and sanitary napkins are necessities in a woman’s life for about 40 years.
Being a 51-year-old man, I can’t say I have much experience buying feminine hygiene products. In fact, the first time I ventured into this forbidden territory was on my wedding day.
My soon-to-be wife dispatched me to the grocery store to buy panty liners. My best man and a groomsman tagged along. I found myself standing bewildered in an unfamiliar store aisle staring at pastel covered parcels with names like “Stayfree,” “Pearl” and “Always.”
My two buddies were giggling.
Dan, my twice-divorced groomsman, refused to give any advice. But he did feel the need to inform store clerks and any passerby of my dilemma. Dave, my then never-been-married best man, was equally flummoxed.
Finally, I decided that bigger must be better and bought the largest pads on the shelf – the only generic pack. When my bride saw what I had purchased she questioned whether pads that large could fit in her suitcase.
She waited another 13 years before asking me to make such a purchase again. And that was last month.
I found myself standing in Wal-Mart at midnight texting photos of various products to my wife to make sure I was making the right purchase. Then I found myself in a long checkout line. The fella behind me was smirking and said, “You’re a good man to go and buy that for your wife.”
Then the reporter in me kicked in. I asked the checkout clerk, Anna, if she thought a tax should be levied on the product.
She gave me a look like this is the last conversation she wanted to have with a customer at midnight and said, “It’s the government. They tax everything.”
Some advocates for eliminating the tax have taken to calling it the “menstruation tax” as a way of emphasizing that only women pay it. (I guess they didn’t consider bewildered husbands making midnight shopping trips.)
But Brigid Leahy, a lobbyist for Planned Parenthood of Illinois, prefers the more neutral “tampon tax.”
She has lobbied hard for the bill and to hear her tell it she has run across more than a few male lawmakers who were uncomfortable with the topic.
“They will say, ‘Um, you have to pay a tax on that?’” Leahy said with a laugh.
Let’s face it tampons are among those things many of us were taught not to discuss in polite company. But there is a serious underlying health issue. Some women just can’t afford the products and end up not changing regularly, which can lead to toxic shock syndrome, Leahy said.
So making the products more affordable just makes sense.
Now if lawmakers can only do something about cutting our property taxes and income taxes.
Illinoisans want tax reform – with no strings attached.
Scott Reeder is a veteran statehouse journalist. He works as a freelance reporter in the Springfield area and can be reached at ScottReeder1965@gmail.com.