Thousands of shoppers have been flocking to malls in more than a dozen states for back-to-school sales tax holidays, buying millions of dollars' worth of clothes and school supplies -- and depriving states of much-needed revenue.
The tax holidays, which aren't part of the California retail scene, offer a financial relief valve to families grappling with high gasoline and food prices, and are a welcome tradition among retailers.
But some lawmakers, economists -- and even some shoppers -- are questioning why states are suspending sales taxes amid a slumping economy. Several states have called off the event entirely.
Vanessa Lee of Atlanta, a mother of three daughters in elementary school, said she would rather have paid the taxes and seen the money go toward education.
"I would hate to see our teachers and classrooms lose out on money because the state doesn't have enough revenue," Lee said.
Sixteen states and the District of Columbia hold tax holidays, usually one weekend a year, when clothing, supplies and energy-efficient appliances are exempt from sales tax.
But Maryland last year put its tax holiday on hold until at least 2010, which could drive the state's shoppers to Washington and Virginia for tax holidays. Florida quashed its tax holidays for hurricane and school supplies this year.