NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Two Republican lawmakers are hoping to ease the burden of mothers and families in Tennessee by eliminating the sales tax on baby diapers, formula and wipes.
Sen. Ferrell Haile (R-Gallatin) and Rep. Johnny Garrett (R-Goodlettsville) have put forth companion bills (SB0529 and HB1184) that would forever make baby diapers, infant formula and baby wipes tax exempt purchases in Tennessee.
Garrett told News 2 he and his colleagues in the General Assembly were “always looking for ways to give money back to our constituents,” and this plan would do just that.
“It provides continuing relief from the taxes that are associated on those purchases for mothers and for families,” he said. “It’s another way we can find to put money back in the pockets of Tennesseans.”
Garrett said he remembers feeling burdened by the high cost of diapers decades ago when his children were younger, adding inflation over time and the added record-high inflation over the last six to 12 months has only exacerbated the strain on families needing to purchase those items.
“The families are buying diapers, formula and wipes all the time for a good seven to 10 months,” he said, or even longer if families have children close together like he and his wife did. “We were buying diapers for three years.”
The bills would not apply to any adult diapers or any diapers or wipes used by “adult toddlers” or seniors, according to Haile. He specified the limitation during a Senate subcommittee hearing Tuesday afternoon.
“I want to make sure that members understand that this is meant for infants,” he said of the measure. “This does not apply to products for older toddlers like Pull-Up diapers nor for senior diapers.”
The bills also make that distinction clear: the exemption would only apply to “infant formula and diapers and wipes designed to be used by infants and children.”
While the bills do not apply to any non-infant diapers, Garrett told News 2 he would not be opposed to having the measure apply to all diaper products.
“I wouldn’t have any issues if it applied to diapers in general no matter who is using them, as long as they get some sort of tax break that they purchased of them,” he said.
The largest hurdle to the measure, however, is money. While not included in initial budget projects, Garrett said he believed the governor’s dedication to assisting families would put him in support of the effort. Haile made a similar reference in the committee hearing, telling committee members the governor declared his intent to help young families.
“We think we can have a conversation,” Haile said of negotiations with the governor’s office.
Further, Haile said the measure would be a demonstration of the state’s pro-life position.
“If we contend that we’re pro-life, we need to be looking for ways to make it easier and cheaper to raise a family in Tennessee. That’s why we’re proposing this bill that would eliminate sales tax on baby diapers, baby wipes and baby formula,” he said.
Haile and Garrett’s proposal is estimated to lose the state $16.7 million in revenue over the 2023-2024 fiscal year and every subsequent year, according to the state’s Fiscal Review Committee. Additionally, it is estimated to decrease local revenues by $7.3 million each year.
The Senate version of the bill failed to receive a positive recommendation from the Senate Finance, Ways & Means Revenue Subcommittee Tuesday afternoon and was forwarded to the Senate Finance, Ways & Means Committee with a negative recommendation. Only Sens. Haile and Jeff Yarbro (D-Nashville) voted in favor of the measure in subcommittee.
The House version of the bill has been assigned to the House Finance, Ways & Means Subcommittee.