California lawmakers delay 'tampon tax' exemption bill

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Reuters) - A California Assembly panel delayed action on Monday on a bill to end sales taxes on tampons and sanitary napkins, an exemption already enacted in five other states in a growing movement against what sponsors say is a tax that unjustly targets women.

The measure has garnered bipartisan support in the Democratic-controlled California legislature, but the Assembly's Revenue and Taxation Committee placed the bill on the panel's "suspense file," meaning its fate will be determined early next month.

Enactment of the bill would reduce state and local revenues by an estimated $20 million a year.

Supporters of the measure say menstrual products should be treated like any other "necessity of life," including food products and other health care items, such as prescription drugs, which are exempt from sales taxes.

"This is fundamentally about gender equity," bill co-author Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia said in remarks to the committee. "We don't tax any other non-optional health product that is needed every month, uniquely, by one gender for 40 years of life."

Sponsors of the bill say the "tampon tax" poses a particularly unfair financial burden on the 4.6 million women living in poverty in California.

Five states - Maryland, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Minnesota and New Jersey - already exempt feminine hygiene products from sales taxes, and nine states other than California are considering legislation to do so, supporters say.

(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein in Sacramento; Writing and additional reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Richard Pullin)