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Jul 21, 5:34 PM EDT

New York repeals sales tax on tampons and sanitary napkins



ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) -- New York state has repealed its tax on tampons and other feminine hygiene products, a move expected to save women $10 million a year.

Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the measure into law Thursday, calling it "a matter of social and economic justice." The repeal passed the Legislature earlier this year after female lawmakers from both parties complained the tax was sexist because personal products including condoms and bandages were already exempt from the sales tax.

The new law exempts tampons, sanitary napkins and panty liners from the 4 percent state sales tax and from local taxes that generally are about 5 percent. It takes effect within three months.

"Sanitary napkins and tampons are simply not a luxury item; they're an everyday need," said Sonia Ossorio, president of the National Organization for Women-New York City. "It's definitely a step in the right direction. Now what we need to do is look at access to these products."

The repeal of the tax is part of an international effort, fueled in part by public outrage on social media. Canada and states including Massachusetts, Minnesota and Pennsylvania have already eliminated their taxes on feminine hygiene products and repeal efforts are underway in many others.

"We are taking a monumental step forward in reforming our out-of-touch tax laws and we are sending a strong message to New York's women that they are being heard," said Sen. Sue Serino, a Dutchess County Republican. "This day is long overdue."

The sales tax was first imposed decades ago at a time when women had little political power, Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal said.

"The tampon tax is regressive," she said. "Lifting it will spare all women the extra monthly burden of paying taxes on products that are already unaffordable to many."

New York has an estimated 10 million women of child-bearing age.

Ossorio said that while the repeal is a victory, it's emblematic of larger societal inequalities that women face every day. When it comes to feminine hygiene products, she said officials around the country should follow the lead of New York City, which recently enacted a new law requiring free tampons at public schools, homeless shelters and jails.

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