New York's New License Plates Stir Resentment Over Fees

November 11, 2009

Obviously you have to replace license plates now and then. Among other reasons, the reflective material wears off. And besides, that way cops can tell if a car hasn't been re-registered in, ohhh, several years.

Like many states, New York is grappling with major budget deficits. Now it has turned to a slew of new fees to fill the gap.

Following a $50 surcharge on vehicle registrations and a $16 fee on driver's license renewals, the state plans to charge car owners $25--up from $5.50 nine years ago--for a new license-plate design that will start arriving for car sales and renewals next April.

But many states charge nothing at all for redesigned license plates. At least the state is honest about it; the DMV press release headline notes it will "generate needed revenue." The new and clearly retro design harks back to the bright yellow plates used from 1973 to 1986.

The state will also charge owners a further $20 to retain their existing plate number (except for vanity plates, which pay a separate fee). Otherwise, they'll be issued a new one, which hasn't happened since the state had to replace 6-character plates with 7-digit ones in 2001. That $20 fee, however, stayed at its 2001 level.

Residents from the poorer upstate region, which has always been at odds with wealthier New York City and its suburbs, are fighting back. Patricia Ritchie has founded a website against the change, called NoNewPlates.com.

Notably, she's also the president of the New York State Association of County Clerks, whose members administer plates for each county. She is charged to uphold state law, of course, but she's far from happy about it.

And we suspect that will likely be how New Yorkers will react. They will pay the money and mount their new plates--with or without a new number--while grumbling about it. Some things never change.

[The New York Times, New York State DMV press release and FAQs]

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