CAPITOL — Legislators of both parties representing the Schenectady area were among those blasting the Cuomo administration's plan for new license plates that includes a $25 fee to replace them when renewing a vehicle registration. The new plates are to begin April 1.
Republican state Sen. James Tedisco, R-Glenville, and state Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, D-Rotterdam, each criticized the planned fee, which legislators did not know was coming ahead of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's announcement on Monday.
The announcement from Cuomo's office emphasized a public vote on selecting the new license plate design, but the plan would also require people to pay an additional $25 plate replacement fee on top of their registration renewal fee. People who want to keep their current plate number will pay another $20 on top of that fee.
The administration's argument for new plates is that the blue-and-white plates still on the road are aging, and may no longer be easily read by law enforcement license plate readers or toll-road cameras that are replacing toll booths on roads like the state Thruway.
Speaking to reporters in Niagara Falls on Tuesday, Cuomo said the new license plates are meant for electronic toll systems to be able to read a license plate when going through a toll barrier.
"I don't have an issue with updating the design of New York's license plates or replacing the plates that are peeling, but taxpayers should not have to foot the bill for the inferior product that the state has produced," Tedisco said. "The state's new $25 'license plate replacement fee' and the $20 fee for people to keep their current license plate number is the latest example of the nickel and diming of taxpayers."
Tedisco said the state Department of Motor Vehicles should revoke its plans to raise fees.
“The governor’s license plate replacement program announced today amounts to nothing more than more of our hard-earned money going to the state," Santabarbara said in a news release Monday evening. "On April 1, 2020, if your plates are 10 years old it will cost you $25 MORE for new plates, regardless of their condition. Seems like the state just keeps finding new reasons to issue new plates and take more of our hard-earned money. Enough is enough; if these plates are necessary the state should provide the replacements at NO COST.”
The new fee will start at the same time as the 2021 state budget is supposed to take effect. There are an estimated 3 million license plates more than 10 years old on the road, meaning up to $75 million in revenue could be generated in the fee's first two years. All the plates in the state are supposed to be replaced within 10 years.
Some observers say that new license plates, based on the way they are laminated, are more prone to deterioration than the plates of the past.
"The 'current' $25 fee was for an optional plate choice," said E.J. McMahon, research director at the Empire Center for Public Policy. "The new fee will be mandatory -- the first time ever. This is a revenue grab under the guise of a PR stunt. Yes, the plates need replacement. But they don’t cost $25 apiece to manufacture."
At least potentially, state legislators could block the higher fee from taking effect when they return to Albany in January, since it isn't scheduled to start until April 1 -- but that would require an Assembly and Senate controlled by Democrats to be willing to challenge Cuomo.
"If you needed any more evidence that one-party Democrat rule in Albany is a recipe for billions of dollars in new and burdensome taxes, Governor Cuomo reinforced it recently when he announced that the state will require millions of drivers to buy new license plates starting next year," said Senate Minority Leader Sen. John J. Flanagan, R-Smithtown.
The region's other state legislators did not issue statements on the new plates.