ALBANY — New Yorkers have chosen a new license plate, according to the state Department of Motor Vehicles website. And, despite growing opposition, a pair will still cost a minimum of $25 per vehicle.
Last month, Gov. Andrew Cuomo put forth five different designs and asked state residents to pick the one they liked the most. Voting wrapped up on Sept. 2.
The new license plate will feature Niagara Falls, the Manhattan skyline and the Statue of Liberty. The longtime slogan of “Empire State” will be replaced by “Excelsior,” which translates from Latin into “forever upward.”
Beginning in April, 2020, anyone who has a license plate 10 years or older is required to purchase the new design for a fee of $25. If a driver wants to keep the same plate number it will cost an additional $20.
The mandatory fee sparked bipartisan criticism and at least one call for a Senate hearing. Sen. Jim Tedisco, R-Niskayuna, said the new license plates will cost $2.3 million to manufacture, or about $2.30 a set, and generate $70 million from New Yorkers. That does not include money generated by people paying the extra $20 to keep the same plate number.
Tedisco was joined by a number of county clerks earlier this week in opposition to the fee.
“The resistance to Gov. Cuomo’s highway heist to raise license plate fees on millions of motorists is growing and it starts right at the front offices of the people on the ground who actually will have to administer this $70 million cash grab by the state: our local county clerks,” he said. “The $45 license plate tax is a bad idea. It’s not necessary and the governor should listen to the overwhelming chorus of people who are outraged by it and do the right thing by revoking it.”
Cuomo has said the $25 fee was established by law in 2009. But, according to EJ McMahan, executive director of the Empire Center for Public Policy, that was initiated by then Gov. David Paterson to raise revenue during a fiscal crisis. Paterson, who elevated to governor after Eliot Spitzer resigned in disgrace, was forced to back off the his plan to impose the fee on renewals as well as new registrations” by irate legislators, McMahon said.
Cuomo has also stated that paying anything less would force those who don’t drive to subsidize those who want a vehicle.
McMahon, in a letter published by the New York Post, said Cuomo said the plates “are manufactured by Auburn state prison inmates who at last report made about a $1 an hour, stamping aluminum sheets with adhesive coatings supplied by a California company that will be paid about $4 million over the next two years.
“At those rates, even in the Empire State, it’s hard to see how the mass-production of millions of license plates could work out to $25 a pair.”
While announcing the survey, the mandated fee was buried at the bottom of the governor’s press release.
“License plates are a symbol of who we are as a state and New Yorkers should have a voice and a vote in its final design,” Cuomo said in a statement announcing the survey and the associated fee. “As the life span of the old plates comes to an end and we develop new ones that are as easy to read as possible, I encourage all residents to take part in choosing this piece of our state’s history.”
Of the five plates, four featured all or portions of the Statue of Liberty and one had a rendition of the former Tappan Zee Bridge, recently rebuilt and renamed after Cuomo’s father and former New York governor Mario Cuomo.
The new plates will be available beginning in April, 2020.
The other four choices are pictured below: