Wisconsin Lawmaker Proposes Game Tax to Fund Juvenile Offender Program

December 21, 2007 -
A Wisconsin lawmaker wants to ensure that non-violent, youthful offenders are processed in juvenile, not adult court.

The idea makes sense, but State Senator Jon Erpenbach's plan to fund rehabilitation programs for those found delinquent is controversial.

As reported by the Wisconsin Radio Network, Erpenbach, a Democrat, wants to add a special one-percent sales tax for video games and game consoles. The surcharge would be in addition to Wisconsin's current five-percent sales tax.

State Representative Steve Nass (R), however, has questioned the logic of tying video games to juvenile crime and wonders why games should be singled out for a tax increase.

GP: Although we really like the idea of keeping non-violent juvenile offenders out the adult system (seems like a no-brainer), it is difficult to see Sen. Erpenbach's logic here in regard to the video game tax. Is he presuming a relationship between games and youth crime? No data supports that. More likely, he is equating video games with toys (and thus with children), as so many non-gamers of his generation are wont to do.


Im pretty sure you could sue on an equal protection under the law basis on this one.

There is no good reason that games are being singled out.

Okay besides the Senator's obvious connection of ALL Juvenile crime to video games, where does one stop at what you might call a video game?

Is it really necessary to tax a Barbie game for all of the danger it poses? What about handheld sudoku games and games you download on a mobile phone? For that matter, what about DVD's, since the menus can be interactive, and searching for easter eggs is kind of like a game. Also, in arcades will there be a $.002 increase on the cost per play?

Asshat politicians...

Alternative Dispute Resolution is a more useful way to solve things like misdemeanors and status offenses committed by juveniles, as well as being far cheaper than anything that a court could do.

This is a poorly thought out plan.

Sounds like a bad idea, but I wonder what the logic (if one can call it that) behind it was.

Sure, it could be the old "video games cause bad behavior" thing.. but it could also be the "video games are a kids thing, lets make the kids pay for kids crimes" thing.

Taxing one thing to help pay for another necessarily means the two are related. 'Sin taxes' on cigarettes and liquor are common and used to pay for all sorts of things. The big proposed increase in a federal program for health insurance for poor children would have been paid for with a cigarette tax, and discouraging smoking through taxes is not going to make those children so much safer that they don't need health care, or so much richer that they can buy it themselves.
The fact that they're taxing games is unusual, but I don't think there's anything illegal about it. The problem they'd face is that if games cost more in Wisconsin than in any neighboring state, citizens will simply cross the border and get their games elsewhere. The people keep the lower tax rates, and now the state doesn't get collect any taxes from the sale of games at all.

i dont think hes really claiming theres a connection hes just finding a way to FUND said program ( the money has to come from somewhere!)

As a wisconsin resident, I would just buy all my games on the internet if this passes, though it won't.

What cullarn said.

I suspect he's also fuelled by the perception that video games = minors only, therefore minors are the only reason games are bought.


This is an interesting proposal. I am thinking that he believes that games contribute to juvenile delinquency, so that they need to be taxed to fund projects to fight it. He may not believe that video games are the cause, but they are related.

He is still wrong though.

So where's the tax on junk food, televisions, and couches? Clearly these are also contributing to juvenile delinquency AND obesity... *sigh*
-- If your wiimote goes snicker-snack, check your wrist-strap...

Well, being from WI as well... time to buy via online vendors with no tax in WI. Thank god this guy is not my senator or I would seriously consider pulling support of him. And I agree, don't think this will pass. Time to dig up my state representative info and start writing

I know the money has to come from somewhere, but claiming that this is kid stuff paying for kid offenders is off since the game market is not aimed at the juvenile demographic. If he were to say use that tax to pay for medical bills of late teen early twenty medical funds of them having car accidents and the like, then it would be easier to swallow. But he is falling into the these things are made for kids trap, M means Must buy for your children!

For any fellow Wisconsinites that want to contact Senator Erpenbach, here is a page with his contact info.

Other then the fact that even if this tax went through, there tax would be lower then my sales tax, I think he should put it on childrens toys, not on videogames. If I don't have any kids, I'm not a kid, why am I paying for this?

Better yet, put it on cars. Why? Well, why not. Makes as much sense as videogames.

He should tax soda pop instea- oh, right.

This is not really an attack on video games. As mentioned by others up-thread, the guy is looking for alternate sources of funding. In WI we already have extra taxes on alcohol and tobacco products, so extra tax increases there won't work. The state is on a very tight budget (which only recent got passed after a long battle between the Governor and the state congress).

So, Erpenbach is just trying to be creative with alternate funding options. Others have proposed similar taxes (tires, pet food, etc) to fund other programs which would seem odd at first glance as well.

So the Democrat is proposing something ridiculous and idiotic and the Republican is saying something that is common sense (State Representative Steve Nass (R), however, has questioned the logic of tying video games to juvenile crime and wonders why games should be singled out for a tax increase.)

It's no wonder i've gone from being a hardcore left-wing liberal to a get-the-government the hell out of our lives Libertarian even if i feel many of the Libertarian fiscal polices are rather extreme.

Consumption based taxes are always unfair and absurd in nature. I'd like to see the social upheavel created by a "religious book" or "child safety seat" tax.


I bet there'd be a much bigger outrage over the former than the latter.

Ok I'm gonna get shot for this statement but...

...I don't think this guy is anti-gamer/anti-game *ducks*

Look at where this is coming from, Wisconsin. How big of an industry do you think gaming, software, and hardware manufacturing is in Wisconsin? I'm going to take a wild guess that it's not the biggest industry there. Honestly this seems to be an election year ploy. Give a great idea and fund via a tax on something most people in Wisconsin don't care about... Unlike say alcohol, tobacco, property, food, and clothing.

That said it is still a stupid ploy. A better plan would be to simply make the underage offenders do something that was profitable to the state like litter collection and road work.

So, despite the fact that studies show that a wide majority of gamers aren't minors(I don't recall the source, but Computer Games Magazine mentioned the study about 2 years ago), we're going to get taxed to subsidize some crack-head welfare addict's little shits because they're robbing convenience stores, stealing bikes, and eventually joining gangs for drug money?

I think someone needs a reality check.

honestly he may be fueled by the ads he sees and what he hears

(mommy buy me this system or this game)

he may just think he found a way to fund the program (games are entertainment not a nessicity so its not totaly unheard of to add additional taxes to such things)

again i honestly dont believe hes pointing fingers at any industry he just needed money for a new project (look on the bright side gamers you will be helping to prevent youthful offenders from becoming hard core criminals maybe =])


umm that would violate minor labor laws i believe

Why doesn't he just raise the state sales tax instead of just taxing games? 5% is awfully low...

I suppose he doesn't want to try to raise the state sales tax because that would be a move that would make him unpopular (even if it is necessary.) But taxing games? I suppose games are just the easy target now-a-days.

*sigh* It's getting ridiculous though.


How? "... underage offenders... " was the key point in Loudspeaker's idea. Underage offenders have to do community service all the time, which includes litter collection and other public works projects.


Look, the state sucks... I won't argue, but we do have a lot of people who play games, just on the other side of the border in Illinois we have Midway Chicago, there are some startups in Madison. Let's just leave Wisconsin's lack of life out of this... okay?

wtf!!! i have a question, why should gamers have to pay for some under aged jackass?


Do you really think people would drive across the border just to save 50 cents (60 at the most) per video game? I think if you put in the time required and the cost of gas it would be better to just buy them locally.

@Father Time: Probably not, though it might motivate more people to buy online. Shipping would still probably be more than just buying local, though, but maybe there's some who would rather pay $4 to the postal service than $0.60 to the legislature.

Thank God I love right on the border with Minnesota. This law passes I'll be buying all my systems across the border.

Honestly though I agree with Loudspeaker. I'm not sure this is so much an anti-game law as it is 'creative funding' through taxing something most (voting) people don't care about that much about.

Can we tax barbie and other doll manufactures for the countries youth parent programs?

@ Benji. Actually, if you buy games through Amazon's "super saver shipping", you probably won't have to pay shipping at all. Might take a little while longer to get the goods, but you save some money at least.

@F**ked up

Actually, the tax for that would be used to fund sex education.


edit: "youth parent" Oooh, sorry, you said the same thing, I just misunderstood. Sorry ^^; .

@ Mort

It wasn't an attack on the state's life. I was simply trying to give reason to the push for a tax on video game sales. Many states have high taxes on car and room rentals because those who are impacted are usually from out of town and have little say on the matter. My conjecture was since this guy is targeting video games it was probably because he feels there isn't much of a voice opposed to such a measure (i.e. the majority of the voting populous doesn't purchase games and most revenue to the state isn't generated from their sale).

My comments were not meant to be a direct attack on the state or those who live in it.

A politician wanting more taxes?! I'm shocked! These people can't manage the money the money they already get so what's a console tax going to do? Oh right, they'll blow that too and then want to tax something else to make up for the money they waste. Taxes (more so for Democrats) is their answer to everything. How about no new taxes and maybe actually really work on the problem instead of throwing money at it? Oh right, politician more often than not also means you're a moron.


Sorry, I forgot my /endsnarky tags. Feel free to verbally attack the state or those who live in it. I live here and I verbally abuse it on a daily basis. My current topic of hate is "More of that white crap falling? God I hate Wisconsin."

Some of us like living in WI.

If an extra .50 on a video game can help some of these kids before they become adult felons I can live with it. I'd be a little more bothered if it was a different program that already has a funding source or the suggested tax was much higher, but this really isn't that huge of a deal.

i have to agree with some of the others here. first of all, 5% sales tax is comparatively low (michigan's is 6% last i checked and some states have 7+%). politicians will always try to weasel, err tax, more money out of our pockets any way they can and sometimes those taxes end up with negative side effects such as michigan's "single business tax" (you get taxed just for being a successful business which is one of a number of factors as to why michigan is still in an economic slump).

@ Mort

HAHAHAHA!! Well played!

@ Taylor

And you're the exact demographic Mr. Erpenbach is hoping makes up the majority of voters in Wisconsin.

Let me pose this question... If this helps keep kids out of the jails in later years then couldn't you use that ROI to fund the program?

Think about it.

Well, if it ends up on the ballot I certainly won't vote in favor of it.

Boston Tea Party Massacre anyone?


your right i had a brain lapse forgive me

Want to keep non-violent crime offenders who are minors out of adult court? Okay, I'm down with that.

Want to fund such program by putting a 1% sales tax on games and game systems?! SO not down with that!

Here in Ohio, our sales tax is a goo 6.75% or so, so with Wisconsin having a 5% sales tax is a pretty sweet deal. But to then raise it to 6% for video games, while still less here in Ohio, is a REAL bad deal! Singling them out is like singling out cigarettes or alcohol! Those already have extra taxes on them as they have been shown to be harmful to people.

VIDEO GAMES HAVE NOT BEEN PROVEN AS SUCH, AND MOST LIKELY NEVER WILL BE! (If they ever do, I'm going to be reading so many medical and psychiatrict journals to try and prove them wrong)

Gotta be another way to fund that program!


Here in Michigan the sales tax is 6%, but I would find it very unfair for someone to single out video games, of all forms of entertainment.

If they really want some more money, increase the sales tax in Wisconsin another percent or 2 for everything!

Tax this, tax that.. TAX TAX TAX TAX..

I will never, ever again vote for anyone who endorses ANY extra tax.. I'm so tired of it.

Well, not that I ever have in the past.. lol

Just another 'sin' tax. First it was booze, then cigarettes... it'll hit everyone in one way or another soon enough.

I submit to people - if the politician in question cannot solve problems with CURRENT resources - perhaps they aren't cut out for the job?

This has probably already been said, but let me say it as well: Why is Erpenbach's party affiliation not specifically noted? The only "D" or "R" is marking the person that's criticizing him, so the lazy reader looking for party affiliation is going to only see an R and assume no D is present in the story.

"Must be them Rethuglicans trying to be fascists again! LEAVE OUR GAMES ALONE, BUSHITLERS!"

Bitch, please. Reeps are gamers, too. This kind of bias is what I expect from the journalism majors that link the VT shooter to CounterStrike, but I was hoping that I wouldn't see it here.

To summarize: Why mark Republicans, but not Democrats? Shouldn't ALL party affiliations be specified? If not, then why?

Let compare video games to the whole comic book thing which were thought to be to violent/sexual(sound familiar?)
Comics first major hit..lets say superman was in 1938 the success drawing the attention of the vulture like lawyers then bang after a few years comic books got a little too gruesome for some people and tada The CCA was created(1954) which as of 2007 is only vaguely still around

Ok so if we use the same time line as comics video games start comming under fire about 20 years after the first major hit if we take that to be pong which came out in 1972 then lawsuites should have started building up around 1992 (which is about when doom came out 1993)
and if also like comic books it takes roughly 50 years to break free of this then we have about 34 more years of this...what fun

yikes and thats your future predicition for today

that's the last thing michigan needs. it's bad enough that it is going through an economical slump, don't need to kill my state any more.... but that could drop prices on housing for a nice cabin in the woods for hunting season.

He's just trying to line his own pockets with his "video game tax", similar to a certain Toronto Canada mayor.

lol taxes, maybe he should cut spending elsewhere instead of burdening people, this is just silly and the guy must be intellectually vapid to think the good people of WI are going to stand for it (I've got family up there, love that part of the country btw)

Sales tax in CT is 6% some states its more, some it is zero
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