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Aurora council snubs proposal to waive sales tax on diapers

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A majority of City Council members opposed a proposal Monday to exempt diapers from Aurora’s 3.75% city sales tax.

The idea brought forward by Councilmember Curtis Gardner would cost the city an estimated  $575,000 in lost tax revenue while lending a hand to families struggling to pay expenses associated with child care.

According to the National Diaper Bank Network, an infant may use up to a dozen diapers per day, costing families as much as $80 per child, per month. The group says around a third of all U.S. families struggle with diaper need.

Opponents criticized Gardner’s proposal broadly, with some saying they would support a tax cut with a larger scope and others insisting the tax cut was too small to be noticed by residents.

“When we cut taxes, which I would be completely for, it’s either got to be broad-based, or if it’s targeted, there’s got to be some secondary economic benefit to it for all taxpayers,” Councilmember Dustin Zvonek said. “Otherwise, what we’re doing is good politics but not good policy.”

Zvonek was joined by Mayor Mike Coffman and councilmembers Francoise Bergan, Danielle Jurinsky, Angela Lawson and Steve Sundberg in opposing the sales tax cut.

Gardner said he believed the exemption was worthwhile even if it didn’t address everywhere taxes could be cut.

“We’ve heard stories of children who have shown up at school with plastic bags taped to them,” he said. “To me, it’s a tax, taxation is theft, and at the end of the day, I think we should look for all opportunities to cut taxes.”

He put the proposal in the context of a sales tax exemption for menstrual products that the council passed unanimously in 2021 as well as a pending Colorado General Assembly bill that would eliminate the state sales tax on those products and diapers.

Bergan said she thought the sales tax on diapers was “nominal,” and pointed out that the state legislature voted to fund a diaper distribution program in 2021.

She also said she thought the exemption would be a “slippery slope” for families wanting to see sales tax lifted on other child care products.

“I think there’s a lot of ways to do it through nonprofits and helping individuals with the cost of it rather than just a tax exemption for everyone out there,” she said.

“I frankly don’t find the argument that it’s not enough of a tax cut to be a reason to vote against a tax cut,” Gardner replied.

Councilmember Juan Marcano said Gadner’s proposal was “moving in the right direction” of the city helping people who are struggling to provide basic necessities.

“I’d rather see us raise wages so that people can actually afford the necessities of life,” he said. “But, that being said, I don’t think there’s the will on council to do that kind of stuff right now, so with this specific measure, I’m in support of it.”

Because Gardner’s proposal was opposed by a majority of council members, it was not scheduled to move out of study session.

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