New license plate

A look at New York’s new license plate, which will feature Niagara Falls, the Statue of Liberty, the New York City skyline and a lighthouse.

ALBANY — The region’s state legislators are proclaiming victory after learning Gov. Andrew Cuomo backed off on a plan to replace all license plates at least 10 years old.

The policy would have required residents to pay $25 for new plates and another $20 to keep their plate number — in addition to normal vehicle-registration fees.

The proposal, announced over the summer, was met with widespread criticism by legislators — Republicans in particular — and the public. A Siena College poll indicates the license plate-replacement plan was very unpopular statewide, with about 75 percent surveyed calling the $25 fee unfair.

The plate-replacement plan was to be rolled out with the newly designed license plates that come out next spring. A statewide contest was recently held to pick the state’s new plate, and it was at that time legislators learned of Cuomo’s plate-replacement plan.

Cuomo contended the current plates need to be replaced to eliminate legibility issues hindering license-plate readers used by law enforcement, red-light cameras and cashless-tolling systems from correctly identifying the registered vehicle owner. The New York State Thruway is moving to a cashless-toll system over the next few years.

Republicans called the plan a “money grab” in a state where residents pay some of the highest taxes in the nation, and that there was no evidence current state plates were unreadable by available technology. Even if they were unreadable, they said, the state shouldn’t be charging residents another $25 on top of their registration fees.

“New Yorkers made it abundantly clear Gov. Cuomo’s transparent money grab would not be tolerated,” Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb, R-131 of Canandaigua, said in a statement. “There is simply no acceptable justification for charging drivers $25 to replace something that costs nearly nothing to produce and doesn’t need to be replaced in the first place. The public, the Legislature and elected officials from across the state saw through this unnecessary tax — which was masquerading as an art contest — and helped to secure a victory for New York drivers by pushing back against this ill-conceived plan. I am proud to have sponsored legislation to protect residents from blatant administrative fleecing.

“Any future plans with respect to cashless tolling, new license plates or taxes and fees associated with them must be crafted with sensitivity to the fact that New Yorkers are facing one of the worst tax climates in America. If you’re going to take someone’s hard-earned money, you need a much better reason than an excuse to fill state coffers.”

Other local legislators cheered the news as well:

• “We won! Proud to have helped lead this fight!” — state Sen. Pam Helming, R-54 of Canandaigua, on her Facebook page.

• “Our voices were heard. Good job to everyone who opposed this plan and who signed petitions and the like.” — Assemblyman Brian Manktelow, R-130 of Lyons, also on Facebook.

• “I’m glad Gov. Cuomo has pulled back his ill-conceived license plate tax and mandatory replacement proposal. It was nothing more than a money grab. It targeted New Yorkers who need tax relief, not a tax hike, including seniors and middle-class families. ... It does go to show that when we all stand together and speak with one voice, we can make change happen.” — Assemblyman Phil Palmesano, R-132 of Corning, in a statement.

Cuomo spokesman Richard Azzopardi said the administration has “committed to working with the Legislature to create a plan that ensures plates are readable by law enforcement and cashless tolling systems and creates a process where plates older than 10 years are inspected and, if still readable, can be kept.”

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