Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner signed a law Friday eliminating sales taxes on feminine hygiene products.
The Republican's pen repealed the so-called "tampon tax" on items such as tampons and menstrual pads. It takes effect Jan. 1.
Illinois became the third state — with New York and Connecticut — to abolish the tax just this year, among 15 states where legislation was introduced, said Jennifer Weiss-Wolf of the Brennan Center for Justice. California's State Assembly is poised to send similar legislation to the governor, she said.
Weis-Wolf was among activists who began pushing the issue in 2015 as a matter of gender equity.
Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey and Pennsylvania had previously not charged the tax and five other states have no sales tax.
The Illinois Senate sponsor, Democrat Melina Bush of Grayslake, said she wants to expand the ban for other products. The original bill also exempted additional feminine hygiene items along with incontinence products.
"This is just the start of a conversation about the unfair 'pink taxes' women face as they buy products priced higher than similar ones marketed to men or, in this case, as they have to spend on products that men don't," Bush said in a prepared statement.
Both houses of the General Assembly adopted the legislation last spring without opposition.
"Compared to other political issues, this has more broad appeal and bipartisan consensus than anything, which is remarkable because it was so off-limits and so taboo for most of our lives," Weiss-Wolf said.
The average statewide sales tax is 6.25 percent. But those taxes can run as high as 10.25 percent in Chicago because of city and county surcharges.
Terry Horstman, spokesman for the Illinois Department of Revenue, said Friday the law will cost the state $10 million to $15 million annually at the state rate. Illinois has a multibillion-dollar deficit, but overall sales tax revenues will hit nearly $1 billion this year.
Weiss-Wolf suggested there are ways to make up the difference. She noted that rolled-fruit candy is exempt from sales tax in New York. In Kentucky, barbecued sunflower seeds are off-limits to the tax man.
"There are plenty of items used equally in the state that are certainly less-necessary items, to allow them to switch gears and charge sales tax on," Weiss-Wolf said.