Capitol Alert

‘Babies before booze’ bill would raise liquor tax to pay for tax-free diapers, tampons

Tax-free health products for women are a matter of values, Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher says

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, D-San Diego, explains why California should raise the tax on liquor to pay for tax-free diapers and tampons.
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Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, D-San Diego, explains why California should raise the tax on liquor to pay for tax-free diapers and tampons.

After Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed their bills last year to exempt diapers and feminine hygiene products from sales taxes, citing the cost to state and local revenues, Assemblywomen Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher and Cristina Garcia went looking for a way to pay for the measures.

Their solution: Raise the excise tax on distributors of hard alcohol when they buy their product from manufacturers, which hasn’t increased since 1991.

“This is a question of values,” Gonzalez Fletcher, D-San Diego, said. “We should be putting babies before booze.”

The assemblywomen unveiled their proposal, Assembly Bill 479, at a press conference on Thursday. It would raise the liquor tax by about a third – to $4.50 from $3.30 per gallon – which they said equates to less than 2 cents per drink. That revenue would offset the cost of exempting diapers and products like tampons and pads from sales taxes, estimated by state officials last year at $55 million, half of which goes to the general fund.

Because it proposes a tax increase, the bill would require a two-thirds vote of the Legislature. Gonzalez Fletcher and Garcia, D-Bell Gardens, urged their colleagues to prioritize “basic necessities” over a luxury item, pointing to significant potential savings for women, families and senior citizens – as much as $100 annually on diapers, for example, enough to pay for a month’s supply.

“No one claims liquor is a basic necessity of life. My period is not optional,” Garcia said. “There is no happy hour for menstruation.”

Alexei Koseff: 916-321-5236, @akoseff

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