The Merriam-Webster Dictionary states that a luxury "is a condition or situation of great comfort, ease and wealth."
California will continue to treat feminine hygiene products as luxury items, not tax-free medical necessities, after Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a bill that would have ended the state tax on tampons and pads. The Legislature had unanimously approved the bill in August.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration classifies feminine hygiene products as medical devices.
Brown defended his veto, citing the bill would have disrupted the state's current budget balance. The tax currently generates $20 million in revenue annually.
"[It] creates a new tax break or expands an existing tax break," Brown said in an official letter. "Tax breaks are the same as new spending."
Advocates of the bill did not hesitate to voice their disappointment.
"This portion of the budget should never have been on the backs of women," said State Assemblymember Cristina Garcia, co-author of the bill. "It's the responsibility of the whole population, not just somebody born with a uterus."
Members of the University of Southern California community expressed similar feelings.
"I think that's ridiculous," said Andrew Thvedt, a senior student at USC. "Tampons, which seem pretty necessary, are taxed as a luxury good. That's just blatantly sexist."
This news comes two weeks after a bill exempting feminine hygiene products from local and state tax took effect in New York. In Illinois, a similar tax will end on Jan. 1.
Only 11 states in the U.S. exempt feminine hygiene products from sales tax, but five of those states do not have a sales tax on any products. Canada lifted its federal tax on feminine hygiene products on July 1 after thousands signed petitions calling for an end to the tax.
A student-run organization at Brown University in Rhode Island recently echoed its support of the tampon tax repeal movement, becoming one of the first institutions in higher education to provide free tampons and sanitary napkins in various bathrooms across campus, including men's rooms.
According to Garcia, women in California spend an average of seven dollars a month for 40 years on feminine hygiene. As a result, the tax puts a bigger financial burden on women of lower incomes.
"Our discussion has also been about access," Garcia said. "[Feminine products] should be made available everywhere, especially because I know some women that are struggling to put some food on the table."
Garcia already aims to combat Brown's decision when the next legislative session begins in January. She plans to propose a state tax on candy and snacks, which she doesn't view as necessities. This plan could add $1.2 billion to the state budget, but the road to victory is a long one.
The governor's office could not be reached for comment for this story.
Reach Staff Reporter Betsy Carter here.