A bill currently before the New York Assembly would add a one-quarter of one percent tax to the sale or rental of video games and video game hardware.
The measure, A02455, was proposed by Assemblyman Felix Ortiz (D, at left) of Brooklyn. The bill would also tax the sale and rental of movies, admissions to movie theaters and the sale of snack foods and sweet drinks. In addition, corporations would be barred from taking a New York tax deduction for expenses incurred in advertising any of the affected items, including video games and systems.
The proposal is currently before the Assembly’s Ways and Means Committee, where it seems likely to remain. This is Ortiz’s fourth attempt at similiar legislation since 2003; none have made it out of committee.
Ortiz’s proposal is motivated by his desire to address the current obesity epidemic. In the justification for A02455 he writes:
Almost all experts agree that the primary reasons [for the obesity epidemic] are increased consumption of larger quantities of high calorie foods, snacks and sugar sweetened beverages… and lack of physical activity as vigorous play is replaced by sedentary activities such as watching more television, movies and videos and playing video games.
This bill would raise revenues from modest surcharges on the very food products and sedentary activities that are linked to the lifestyle changes involved in the explosion of childhood obesity in the last 20-30 years.
Ortiz estimates that his bill would raise $50 million in revenue which would in turn be used to fund programs designed to counter childhood obesity. Conservative magazine The American Spectator refers to Ortiz as "perhaps the nation’s most prolific author of vice taxes:"
[Ortiz] has a litany of bills before the New York state legislature imposing a $10 tax on visitors to strip clubs, a 25¢-cent tax on bottles of beer and wine, and a fatso tax on soda, sweets, and video games.