California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) is unveiling a revised budget this week aimed at reducing the cost of living for parents and families.
The plan expands upon Newsom’s January budget proposal ― which included what would be one of the most generous paid parental leave policies in the country ― by adding additional tax exemptions on menstrual products and diapers.
The governor, joined by first partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom, previewed the proposed “Parents Agenda” on Tuesday before the California Legislative Women’s Caucus.
“As anyone who takes care of kids can tell you, these costs add up. From diapers to child care, raising kids is expensive wherever you live,” Newsom said. “But when you factor in the cost of living here in California, it is close to impossible.”
Californians spend roughly $20 million annually in taxes on menstrual products, the governor’s office said in a release. A 2017 study found that about 1 in 3 families in the U.S. struggle to afford diapers, which can cost around $1,000 a year per child.
In addition to the sales and use tax exemptions on menstrual products and diapers, Newsom’s revised proposal would also allocate $134.7 million in funding, divided between the CalWORKs public assistance program and revenue from the state’s new cannabis tax, to go toward child care services.
The California legislature in 2016 unanimously passed a bill banning menstrual products from being taxed, but then-Gov. Jerry Brown (D) vetoed the measure on the grounds that the state’s finances couldn’t support it.
That same year, Brown vetoed a bill that would have required companies with 20 or more employees to provide six weeks of parental leave after the birth or adoption of a child.
The federal government is now finally considering a paid family leave law, as many other industrialized countries in the world already have in place. The House Ways and Means Committee is holding its first full hearing devoted to the topic on Wednesday.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) in February reintroduced the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act, which would guarantee 12 weeks of partially paid leave for new parents and for workers caring for sick loved ones or who are experiencing serious health issues.
Advocates say the legislation hasn’t gotten much airtime in the recent news cycle because parental leave is often viewed as a “women’s issue,” and thus swept aside.
“I legitimately think sexism is a huge part of this,” Jess Morales Rocketto, the executive director of Care in Action, a nonprofit that advocates for domestic workers, recently told HuffPost.
“This is the election of big ideas, so people need a big idea,” Morales said. “Am I surprised that a thing that’s mostly about women is not considered a big idea? Definitely not.”
But Newsom on Tuesday said he was a “proud feminist” and thanked his wife for helping him see the importance of pushing policies forward that would value caregivers.
“Guys, yeah, pay attention, listen, learn,” Newsom said, according to The San Francisco Chronicle. “Don’t take things for granted. This is real, and we need to attach ourselves to addressing this issue as well.”