Sin Tax Creep

No child left inside


Led by the state's Sierra Club, New Mexico's "No Child Left Inside" movement aims to provide school kids with a variety of outdoor education programs. Since the fund will need money, environmental groups are looking to taxpayers for support. And since public health programs are increasingly funded through sin taxes, states have gone fishing for a sin.

Instead of piling on the usual culprits, alcohol and tobacco, the coalition wants to impose a 1 percent tax on television sets and video games, agents of vice that presumably leave children inside. (Other politicians want to use such gimmicks to require kids to stay inside. In December a Wisconsin state senator proposed a video game tax to fund a juvenile detention program.)

Supporters of the proposed New Mexico tax say it will raise $4 million, which would go toward busing students to state parks and training teachers to integrate outdoor learning into their lesson plans. The boost in visitor numbers would be conveniently timed for state parks, where attendance has been waning nationwide. Kids are a captive audience during school hours, which means they're available to boost meager attendance numbers—and park budgets. Prying them from their video games after hours, though, will be a tougher sell.