The DC Council has become famous for passing bills, having parties, and declaring victory. The secret they hope you don’t consider is that passing bills means almost nothing in DC. In order for a bill to become an effective law, it must be funded, it must be implemented, and the city must undertake oversight activities to ensure compliance and enforcement. A glaring example, one that I refuse to let go unnoticed, is the “tampon tax” bill.
In late 2016, the DC Council passed a bill that would eliminate the “tampon tax,” a 5.75 percent sales tax which applies to menstrual health products and diapers. Since then, the bill has not been funded, so the reform has not been implemented. Women throughout DC face the economic consequences of this inaction every single day.
As is usually the case, DC continues to lag behind legislatures throughout the nation when it comes to this progressive policy. Eight states have already implemented tax exemptions for tampons, and conservative states like Louisiana have taken up consideration of tampon tax repeal legislation, while the DC Council continues to ignore local advocates who have pushed tirelessly for funding and implementation.
The tampon tax is an unfair burden on women and families throughout DC, who are paying an estimated $3 million per year in tax on essential hygiene products. The city is choosing to profit from menstrual health products that are considered medically essential to keep women and children healthy, by instituting a tax that does not apply to any other necessary preventive healthcare service. What’s more, paying a 5.75 percent tax on these products hits low-income women and families, and persons of color, the hardest, making the delay in implementing this legislation all the more inexcusable.
The tax exemption was supposed to begin in October 2017. However, the DC Council failed to fund the $3 million needed to offset the repeal of the tax, so it remains. In this same year, the Council – and our current Ward 6 Councilmember – voted to use a budget surplus to cut the corporate tax rate and slash the estate tax, policies that benefit a few hundred people, most of whom were white men. Yet, they could not find it within themselves to locate $3 million to help low-income women and families. Their inaction is inexcusable, particularly in light of where they redirected the money.
While corporations enjoy their tax cut and wealthy families can rest easy knowing they no longer need to pay a DC estate tax, women and families are suffering. Thirty-three percent of women-led DC homes in the DC area live in poverty, and 31 percent of DC infants and toddlers with at least one parent who works full-time are considered low-income. A woman is expected to pay an average of $1,733 per year on necessary feminine hygiene products. Children’s diaper needs cost an average of $960 per year, and are not covered by federal assistance programs. Two years ago, when reporters were present and the cameras were on, the DC Council touted their own action to protect these vulnerable populations. Yet, in the two years since, they have done nothing to help these families cover these debilitating costs.
This is just one of many examples of our DC Council putting the interests of businesses ahead of the interests of our friends and neighbors who are struggling, and could really use some help. Low-income women and families may not be able to afford to donate to campaigns, but that does not make them any less deserving of an advocate on the DC Council who will fight for them, every day. DC is a majority-female city, with a majority-male legislative body that continues to ignore our requests for help. In 2018, our requests have become demands, and if elected I look forward to spending every ounce of my energy turning these demands into laws.