SHERIDAN — A bill failed in committee following a 2-3 vote against legislation that would exempt necessary hygiene products from taxation in the state of Wyoming.
The Essential Health Product Dignity Act, sponsored by the Joint Revenue Interim Committee, aimed to exempt feminine hygiene products and diapers from being taxed in the state of Wyoming. The bill, proposed before in the last legislative session, did not receive a two-thirds backing from the chamber on introduction for it to move forward to potentially become law. Sen. Affie Ellis, R-Cheyenne, who presented the bill to the Senate Revenue Committee Tuesday, said most states exempt non-luxury necessities or essential items.
“In Wyoming this includes things like groceries, prescription drugs and prosthetics,” Ellis said, mentioning Wyoming state statute exempts a list of things.
Ellis said most Wyoming businesses currently tax on diapers and feminine hygiene products, considering them under state law as “luxury.”
“However, I can tell you that these items are not luxury at all,” Ellis said. “For a woman to live with dignity, these items are often expensive and there have been numerous examples of people who have come to me who talk about the fact that, particularly for young girls if their parents don’t have funds, that it can be very difficult to get your hands on these products.”
Currently, 13 states exempt them entirely from taxation.
Likewise, taxing diapers affect young women and men and the elderly, two populations that typically see less financial stability due to hitting poverty lines or living on fixed incomes.
The U.S. Census Bureau measures poverty using a set of income thresholds, including any form of income in a household like child support, trusts, estates, royalties, rents and dividends, among others.
The poverty threshold in 2020 for the 48 contiguous states and Washington, D.C., was $26,200 for a family of four in one household, and $12,760 for a single person household, for example. Those living in poverty in Sheridan County is 10.5%, compared to 8.5% in Wyoming and 10.1% in the U.S.
In 2018 statistic compilations, females ages 18-24 are the largest demographic living in poverty, according to datausa.io, which pulls from Census Bureau data. That age range often encompasses women needing feminine hygiene products and mothers needing to purchase diapers for children.
“The cost (for feminine hygiene products) adds up, and it’s a unique cost that women bear,” Ellis said.
Following that demographic are men in the same age range, then females 25-34, who also may fall under the parenting demographic.
For elderly folks impacted by paying taxes on adult diapers, passing the bill would have positively impacted that demographic.
“For those that have done elder care for a loved one, a grandparent, a parent, you know that purchasing diapers is very much a matter of dignity,” Ellis said. “A lot of people don’t like buying them altogether, but in the instances they have to, they’re very expensive. And unfortunately as I’ve seen with a lot of end-of-life cases, these things are hot commodities.”
The loss of tax revenue would result in a $939,000 reduction in Fiscal Year 2022 from the general fund and $903,000 in the local sources fund.
Sen. Tom James, R-Rock Springs moved to amend the bill to gender neutralize it to include all hygiene products.
“If we make it to just feminine products, it doesn’t really encompass what our state is about and it segregates and favors one sex over the other,” James said. “And I’m not saying what happens with women is not important and that type of thing, I just think that when it comes to hygiene, both sexes are necessary to have that hygiene maintenance.
“Guys with soaps and foot powder and all of that kind of stuff, we’re out working in the field, out in the mines, out in the oil field, wherever we work. I know it’s nowhere near what women go through, so it’s not a comparison, but we still have our hygiene products that we have to have as well,” he said.
The amendment failed 2-3, with James and Chair Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander voting in favor. Those opposed to the amendment said the exemption of all hygiene products, due to the fiscal impact and the lack of application for a need for feminine products for men, caused them to vote against it.
“It provides dignity for our constituents,” Sen. Schuler said. “Although it’s a tough time to look at the fiscal impact of a reduction, I think this bill is something I can certainly get behind as it is.”
James held his position, again mentioning proper hygiene for both genders, which if not addressed properly, eventually causes other health issues.
The fiscal impact of the bill cuts a large chunk out of statewide funding, which Sens. Fred Baldwin, R-Kemmerer, and Stephan Pappas, R-Cheyenne, expressed concern over it passing on the floor of the Senate if it moved out of committee.
The bill failed 2-3 and will not move to the floor for the second legislative session in a row.
Ashleigh Snoozy joined The Sheridan Press in October 2016 as a reporter before moving into the managing editor position in November 2018. She is a native of Colorado and graduated from Biola University in Los Angeles.