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Foss: Time to put an end to 'License Plategate'

Foss: Time to put an end to 'License Plategate'

Foss: Time to put an end to 'License Plategate'

There's an obvious solution to License Plategate, the scandal currently roiling New York. 

And it doesn't require bringing state legislators back to Albany for a special session, or holding public hearings. 

It simply requires that Gov. Andrew Cuomo back off his lucrative but misguided plan to force all New York vehicles with plates that are 10 years or older to get new license plates, for a fee of $25. 

That's it. 

That's all that's needed. 

What's not needed is for License Plategate to drag on into the fall, or for Cuomo to continue lashing out at critics who have latched onto this issue and won't let go. 

If it seems like people are milking this issue for all it's worth, well, that might have something to do with the governor's failure to provide a good explanation for why the new plates -- and the $25 fee for acquiring them -- are necessary. 

Which isn't to say that the governor hasn't attempted to explain the necessity of the new plates to residents. 

He has. 

It's just that his logic doesn't make a lot of sense. 

Let's start with the $25 fee. 

Cuomo contends that drivers should cover the cost of their license plate. 

"It's your license plate, you should pay the cost of your license plate," he told reporters. 

That sounds reasonable -- driving is a right, not a privilege, as my driver's ed teacher was fond of saying -- until you consider that New York license plates are mass-produced by prisoners making about $1 an hour. 

If the goal is to get drivers to cover the cost of their plates, the fee should be drastically reduced. 

But if the goal is to generate revenue by nickel-and-diming New Yorkers, then a wildly inflated fee makes sense, even if the Cuomo administration is reluctant to admit that the state is overcharging for license plates, and has been for years.  

As for the notion that older plates must be replaced because many of them are "damaged, oxidized and peeling," making it difficult for cashless-tolling systems to read them, that sounds reasonable, too. 

But I see a lot of older plates that are in pretty good condition. 

Do they all really need to be replaced? 

Perhaps drivers with plates that are at least a decade old should have the option of keeping them, if they can demonstrate that they're still readable and intact. 

The most galling aspect of License Plategate might be the lack of information concerning what the money generated by the fee will be used for. 

If it had some sort of designated purpose, such as fixing roads, it might be easier for residents to swallow. 

But it appears to be exactly what its critics say it is -- a money-grab from a state known for hitting residents with high taxes and fees. 

And that's difficult to defend. 

Reach Sara Foss at [email protected]. Opinions expressed here are her own and not necessarily the newspaper's.

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