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Rhode Island considers removing state sales tax on tampons

Women could soon save some money on feminine hygiene products. (WJAR)

Women could soon save some money on feminine hygiene products.

Rhode Island lawmakers are considering a bill that would eliminate the sales tax on those items, as well as some medical supplies.

Sen. Louis DiPalma, who oversees Middletown, Newport, Little Compton, and Tiverton, as well as Rep. Edith Ajello, who represents Providence, are co-sponsoring the proposed legislation.

"I can't say I've never bought these for my wife or whatever, but I never noticed that they were taxed, and it seems odd that these things are taxed," DiPalma said.

Meghan Kallman, a fellow at the Women's Policy Institute, asked DiPalma and Ajello to co-sponsor the bill. Kallman believes imposing a tax on feminine hygiene products is a form of gender discrimination.

"Most women out there would agree with me that having a period is not actually a luxury and we shouldn't pay luxury taxes on the products that keep us healthy and safe," Kallman said.

Lawmakers aren't just working to make sanitary napkins tax exempt. The proposed legislation would also remove the 7 percent sales tax on some home care medical supplies, including one-use syringes for diabetics and inhalers for those with asthma.

"I was asked by a constituent to do something about the tax he's paying on test strips, blood test strips, for diabetes," Ajello said.

Ajello and DiPalma acknowledge the bill doesn't cover every item used by people with chronic conditions. But they said it's a step in the right direction.

"We shouldn't put off this one because of others that we have to look at," DiPalma said. "If we know this is an issue, let's address the issue and then let's look at the other ones subsequent to that."

The state currently collects about $730,000 a year from taxes on pads and tampons, as well as medical supplies. If the bill passes, the state would offset that by lowering the luxury tax on clothes from $250 an item to $240. Advocates said doing so would be well worth it.

"Women are on the wrong end of the income spectrum," Kallman said.

Ajello said it's possible the legislation may be absorbed into next year's budget, instead of as a bill.

The legislation was heard in the Senate Finance Committee earlier this week and was held for further study. It's scheduled to be heard in the House Finance Committee in late April or early May, according to Ajello.

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