Aurora took a major step Monday toward eliminating the city’s sales tax on menstrual products, putting it in line to become only the second Colorado city to do so.
The Aurora City Council voted unanimously to move the measure to a second and final vote later this month. Denver passed a similar measure in 2019. Together, the adjacent cities are home to more than half a million women.
“This coming before the council on International Women’s Day does send a message that if you’re someone who lives in Aurora, this is something we see as an equity issue and you shouldn’t be taxed on what your body does naturally,” Aurora Councilwoman Allison Hiltz said in an interview before the vote.
Aurora’s ordinance stipulates that tampons, panty liners, menstrual cups and sanitary napkins would be exempt from the city’s 3.75% sales tax, though state sales tax and other taxes levied at the point of purchase in Aurora would still apply.
The city projects it will lose $230,000 a year in sales tax revenue as a result of the exemption.
“This is worth that loss of tax revenue because we’re giving people some security in accessing the products they need,” Hiltz said.
Colorado is one of 30 states that has not passed a tax exemption for feminine hygiene products, according to Period Equity, an advocacy group that strives for “menstrual equity.” Democrats tried in 2017, but it failed at the statehouse.
Laura Strausfeld, co-founder of Period Equity, said she hopes Colorado lawmakers will take up the issue at the statewide level soon — or face potential litigation.
“It’s great that Aurora is taking this on, especially given the Colorado legislature’s appalling failure to act,” she said Monday. “We filed a lawsuit against Michigan recently, arguing its tampon tax is unconstitutional. Colorado risks similar legal action by continuing to assess an unconstitutional tax.”
State Rep. Leslie Herod, D-Denver, co-sponsored the 2017 push and said Monday she has hope that a bill might still be drafted in this legislative session to address the issue.
“Menstruation products are not luxury goods,” she said. “The state should do everything in its power to fight against period poverty.”
Herod pointed to a decision by Denver Public Schools in January to stock girls’ and womens’ bathrooms in the district with free menstrual products as a “step in the right direction.”
Given the pandemic’s disproportionate impacts on women in the workforce, Hiltz said, now is the time to move through a measure like the one Aurora is considering.
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