New York Weighs Costs of New License Plates

Earlier this month, Gov. Cuomo’s office began what seemed to be an innocent competition for new license plate designs in the state of New York. However, drivers and lawmakers alike were outraged by the pricey $25 replacement fee. 

In 2010, New York State stopped issuing the Empire blue and white license plates in exchange for the Empire gold. Now, drivers will have to turn in their old blue and white plates by April 2020. 

Over 3 million blue and white plates are still on the road, many of which are peeling or damaged, making it hard for cashless tolls to read the letters and numbers. These drivers will have to pay a mandatory $25 fee for replacement, and an additional $20 to keep the same license plate number. 

This fee first came into play under Gov. David Paterson in 2009, where the Legislature approved a bill allowing the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to increase the fee “not to exceed” $25. The language of the bill suggests that the DMV can control the price of this fee, and that $25 is the cap, not necessarily the standard. 

The plates almost certainly cost less than $25 to make, given inmates at the Auburn Correctional Facility manufacture them for around $1 an hour or less. This controversy shines a light on the poor wages for inmates, so one point of contention for lawmakers is to increase inmate wages with the $75 million that will be generated with this plate replacement program. 

Various lawmakers are taking a stance against the proposed fee, such as Republican Senator Jim Tedisco who represents the Capital region. 

“If the state was going to be honest with their plan to charge all motorists between $25 and $45 for new license plates, this would be the design they’d use,” Tedisco said in a tweet. “A state bureaucrat with their hand in a NYS taxpayer’s wallet yet again!”

On Thursday, Aug. 29, Cuomo’s office proposed a potential compromise. In a statement released under DMV Commissioner Mark Schroeder, it suggested that an inspection program created with the Legislature could work to determine if plates are 10 years or older can remain on the road after next April.