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Finger pointing on NYS license plate fees

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ALBANY, NY — The plan had been that beginning on April 1, 2020, everyone who had New York license plates older than 10 years would have to replace those plates as the registrations came due, regardless of the condition of the plates, and the replacement fee would be $25. The fee to retain the same plate number or for a vanity plate would be an additional $20.

Then, Gov. Andrew Cuomo came under attack from opponents who said it was another unnecessary cost to taxpayers. Cuomo responded that the change was needed to keep pace with license-plate-reading technology. Because the state is using an increasing number of license plate readers to automatically collect tolls, the technology needed to be as precise as possible, to ensure the system was working fairly for everyone, Cuomo said.

He also said he was opposed to paying for new license plates out of the general funds because that would force taxpayers who don’t own cars or other licensed vehicles to pay for other people’s plates. Further, he said the $25 fee was passed by the legislature and signed by former Gov. David Patterson in 2009, before Cuomo took the seat.

Still, criticism kept coming from both sides of the aisle, with some lawmakers calling it a “money grab” and others saying this was just another attempt by the state to try and raise revenue on the backs of drivers. Sen. James Tedisco released an analysis that claimed the actual cost of making each license plate was about $1.15 and not $25.

On August 29 Mark Schroeder, the commissioner of the Department of Motor Vehicles, stepped into the fray. He said that if lawmakers wanted to lower the $25 fee for the new plates, Cuomo would invite them back to Albany immediately for a special session on the matter.

Schroeder also addressed the condition issue, and said if the reflected coating on the plates has been damaged or is missing, the plate reader won’t collect the toll, and the state will lose revenue. “If the legislature can agree to a cost-effective and practical plate inspection mechanism to determine what plates are still in good operating condition after the 10-year life and thus do not need to be replaced, we would welcome the opportunity to be cooperative,” Schroeder said.

“The 10-year life replacement program does not go into effect until next April so we have time to work with the legislature to explore alternatives. We support reducing costs wherever possible,” he said.

The public, meanwhile, can visit Cuomo’s website (now.ny.gov/page/s/vote-for-the-next-nys-license-plate-design) to vote on one of five designs that will be used for the updated New York State license plates.

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