AUSTIN (Nexstar) — After years of unsuccessful attempts, Texas will soon no longer collect sales tax on essential baby products like diapers and wipes, as well as menstrual products starting on Sept. 1.
Longtime advocates like the Austin Diaper Bank say it will make certain healthcare necessities more accessible for low-income Texans. The nonprofit provides nearly 200,000 diapers per month to families, helping around 35,000 families a year. Executive Director Holly McDaniel expressed said she was “thrilled” when the bill finally passed.
“For families who are living in poverty or have low incomes, diapers can be really expensive. And so a lot of times they’ll reuse diapers, they’ll use other things in place of a diaper. And we don’t want families to do that,” McDaniel said.
Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, had introduced this bill in four consecutive legislative sessions. She attributes the nearly $33 billion budget surplus to a main factor in getting it across the finish line this year.
“I will say that I think it also came on the heels of the previous legislative session, and the Supreme Court ruling on Roe v. Wade, where there was a sense that the Texas Legislature was not taking care of women and not providing them access to health care,” she said. “So there was more of an effort this time I think on the part of leadership to show that indeed, they did want to support women. They did want to support families.”
At the beginning of the session, Speaker of the House Dade Phelan made Howard’s bill on of his top priorities. The legislation that ultimately got signed into law was a Senate version of Howard’s bill sponsored by Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston.
Although the savings resulting from the tax elimination might seem small, Howard estimates it will add up over time and make a noticable impact for families living paycheck to paycheck.
“What we really need to be working toward now though, is how do we make sure we have more of these products — both diapers and period products — available to those who need them,” she said.
It also eliminates the sales tax for adult diapers. The law will go into effect on Sept. 1.