The Maine Legislature rejected last week a bill that would have exempted the purchase of diapers from the state's sales tax.

The House voted 73-71 on May 24 to approve the sales tax exemption but the Senate rejected it 22-13 the following day.

State Sen. David Miramant said he supported the tax exemption hoping that it would create an environment for young folks to stay in, or move to Maine.

Miramant voted to keep the bill alive while Republican Sens. Dana Dow of Waldoboro and Michael Thibodeau of Winterport voted to kill the legislation.

In the House, Democratic Reps. Anne "Pinny" Beebe-Center of Rockland and John Spear of South Thomaston and independent Owen Casas of Rockport voted for the exemption. Republican Reps. Paula Sutton of Warren and Abden Simmons of Waldoboro voted against the bill.

Spear said he saw it as something that just might provide a little bit of assistance to struggling young families.

"Also, it struck me as a little hypocritical to tax diapers, but not ski tickets or golf greens fees," Spear said.

Spear said he would have preferred a bill that incentivized the use of cloth diapers, but that wasn't the choice before the Legislature.
Casas said "We talk a lot about how badly we want young families to come here to Maine and sometimes there are not policies that help facilitate this. This is a good way to target folks that we know have additional costs associated with young children."

The independent said the sales tax exemption was a way to have direct impact on young working families while mitigating out the inefficiencies that come along with government programs such as providing money to allow for free diapers at places such as food pantries.

Beebe-Center said one of the larger expenses for low-income families is diapers.

"So it is often the reason for sickness that families are trying to stretch the time in between diaper changes which leads to rashes, upset, infections and the need — although not always accessible — for medical care," Beebe-Center said.

Sutton said "We already have a variety of state and federal tax credit programs in place to benefit families and the information is here."

"My preference when possible is not to make carve outs or special exceptions in broad based tax programs.  This speaks to fairness and equality, if one chooses to have children then one needs to pay the needed taxes without additional exemptions which will only burden others who are forced to pick up the difference. Every time we make an exemption for one it increases the burden on another. 

To cut spending rather than to have to increase taxes is preferable when possible but given the huge appetite for more spending and programs I have found progress difficult," Sutton concluded.