Gamers can continue to play outside with a solar-powered Nintendo Wii  (Source: Tom's Games)
New Mexico to collect money in hopes that kids will spend more time outdoors

“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 York, Oklahoma, Maryland, Louisiana, Minnesota, California, Illinois, and others.

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.


2/23/08 Update: DailyTech has learned that the tax proposed in the above story had already been shot down. We regret the error.

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