Kansas has considered ending taxes on period products since 2022. Why has nothing passed?

Both the Democratic and Republican candidates for governor backed an end to sales taxes on menstrual products during the 2022 campaign.

by Blaise Mesa

The 2022 gubernatorial election in Kansas was close. Gov. Laura Kelly and Republican challenger Derek Schmidt rarely found common ground.

But they agreed on at least one thing: ditching the sales tax on diapers and period products — like tampons and menstrual cups. They both liked the idea because it helped young women, families and mothers getting crushed by high inflation. 

“Other governors in our region, both Democrat and Republican, have stepped up and made this a priority,” Schmidt said at a press conference in 2022. “Kansas ought to be making their daily life more affordable, too. That’s what our plan will do.”

Similar versions of a period-product tax cut have been introduced or debated in the Kansas Statehouse in 2022, 2023 and 2024. Though the idea had support from key Republicans and Democrats, its path to become law remains iffy. 

A period-product sales tax cut’s most recent legislative action came Thursday in the Senate Taxation Committee. 

The Republican chair of the panel didn’t answer questions on why the bill has stalled out in recent years. Rep. Adam Smith, a Weskan Republican and chair of the House tax committee, has a similar bill in his committee. It was introduced in 2023 but hasn’t moved since. 

He said this tax cut isn’t as wide-ranging as he’d like. Some lawmakers argue for cutting taxes on everyday essentials and supporters of the cut say period products fit that definition. But most Kansans drive every day. Does that mean they shouldn’t be taxed on the price of a new car? Or do taxes on vehicles need to go up to offset the lost revenue from eliminating taxes on diapers and tampons?

“I subscribe more to the theory of ‘let’s tax as much as we can to expand our base,’” Smith said. “That way we can try and keep (the overall) rate low.” 

Smith said Republicans are working on broader tax cuts to make use of the state’s multibillion-dollar budget surplus.  

Bills proposing tax cuts on period products are generally well-received by people who testify. The bill on Thursday had no opponents. The same thing happened in bills in past years that never passed. 

Democrats say the state needs to deliver bipartisan tax relief. 

“Period products and diapers are essential and should be recognized as basic needs rather than luxury goods,” Senate Democratic Leader Dinah Sykes, a Lenexa Democrat, said in an emailed statement. 

Kelly’s $1 billion tax plan does include this provision, but her plan has a murky path forward, at best. 

“Republican leadership has held popular, bipartisan tax relief for Kansas families hostage to their unpopular flat-tax plan,” Sykes said.  

It’s common for tax breaks to get stuck in a partisan gridlock, but the bill’s on average $9.1 million yearly cost represents an almost negligible fraction (less than 0.05%) of the state’s roughly $20 billion budget. Both Republicans and Democrats want to cut overall taxes by more than $1 billion over a few years. 

The cost of the period-product tax cut is on par with $10 million in renovations for the World Cup that lawmakers approved last year. That money went to a stadium that won’t even host games, and Kelly proposed another $20 million for the event this year. 

The bill being heard this year is smaller than past versions. The 2022 plan would cut taxes on hygiene products, which included shampoo, deodorant, lotions, sunscreens and toothpaste. That plan had a $19.7 million price tag. 

More than half of states charge either no sales tax or completely exempt period products from taxes. Colorado, Nebraska and Iowa don’t tax them at all. Missouri has a tax just like Kansas.

This article was republished here with the permission of: The Wichita Beacon