“Stop sitting in front of the TV and go outside to play” – a
phrase commonly said by parents whenever their children settle to
watch a television program or play a videogame. It is usually up to
the parents to motivate their children towards a particular behavior,
but now the state of New Mexico would like to intervene.
The New Mexico legislature introduced House
Bill 583, championed by Representative Gail Chasey, which
essentially imposes an excise tax on televisions, videogame software
and hardware. Specifically, consumers of such products will have to
pay an extra 1 percent tax on purchases in addition to the gross
receipts tax and other applicable state or federal tax.
Products purchased to be shipped to another state are exempt from
the tax. Also excluded from taxation are any related equipment sold
by an “instrumentality of the armed forces of the United States
engaged in retail activities.”
Revenue created by the officially termed “Television Tax” will
go towards a state treasury fund named the “Leave No Child Inside
Fund,” which will consist of appropriations, gifts, grants,
donations and bequests. Money collected by the program will be put
towards state parks and the public education department for programs
in hopes of encouraging school children to frequent the outdoors. As
described by the bill, funds will be used to:
(1) develop curriculum-based programs
for teachers to use on public lands and at other outdoor learning
sites for outdoor education initiatives;
(2) develop hands-on teaching
materials for children for use in outdoor education programs;
(3) provide transportation for
children to experience outdoor education programs;
(4) provide substantial and frequent
outdoor experiences for children; and
(5) increase outdoor nature-oriented
physical activity programs for school-age children.
Also detailed is the distribution of the Television Tax. 95
percent of the net receipts shall go to the No Child Inside Fund at
the state treasurer as general fund revenues. The remaining five
percent will be used to defray the costs of upholding the program.
Should it come into effect, the Television Tax will begin on
January 1, 2009.
House Bill 583 wouldn’t be the first time videogames were
targeted by a state body. Over the past few years, state leaders have
often tried to pass laws that would make it illegal or challenging to
sell or promote games intended for mature audiences.
Other states with videogame related bills include New
Most decisions that were taken to court deemed the proposed laws
as unconstitutional, as videogames are now qualified under protected
speech. Furthermore, older cases have set a precedent that policy
makers are forbidden from using their power to discriminate against
speech that they disfavor. As pointed out by CNET,
in a number of cases dating as far back as 1936, the Supreme Court
deemed state laws that singled out newspapers or magazines for unique
tax burdens as unconstitutional.