County Governments Enter "Plate Gate"

Sep 12, 2019

County governments are beginning to show opposition to a mandatory license plate replacement program in New York.

The saga dubbed license plate gate continues. Now, county governments are voicing opposition to a Cuomo administration plate replacement program that would require drivers to pay a $25 fee to replace plates at least 10 years old, and another $20 to keep their existing number.

Jack Wilson is the chair of the Fulton County Board of Supervisors. A Republican, he believes Fulton County was the first in the state to pass a resolution opposed to the program.  

“Well it’s just another money grab and another mandate from the state to take money away from taxpayers,” said Wilson.

Wilson said all Republicans and all Democrats voted for the bill.

“It was 100 percent unanimous,” said Wilson.

On September 10th, the Rensselaer County legislature passed a similar measure — also unanimously. And the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors has advanced its own bill out of committee.

Republican State Senator James Tedisco, who has been rallying county clerks and legislators in opposition to the plate fees, is calling on Governor Andrew Cuomo to lower the state’s existing $25 plate replacement fee.

“Use your power! Reduce it! Eliminate it!”

Tedisco, from Glenville, cites a 2009 measure that says a license plate fee cannot exceed $25. Opponents say the administration could charge as little as a penny.

Governor Cuomo, elected in 2010, points to the same law, saying lawmakers have had more than a decade to change the fee. Here he is speaking on WAMC’s Roundtable program last week.

“If you are an Assemblyperson, you could have changed it any year for the past 10 years, you’ve been in the majority. If you’re a Republican Senator, you could have changed it any year. You were in the majority. It’s been 25 dollars for 10 years,” said Cuomo.

Rensselaer County Legislature Chair Mike Stammel, a Republican, said legislators have heard complaints from residents across the county about the 10-year mandatory replacement.

“We oppose it because of the effect it has on us all. Not only on the residents, but on small businesses who have fleets of equipment they have to deal with, the farmers who have a number of vehicles that they might only use once in a while during harvest season and stuff, but they still have to have them plated.”

Democrats in the Senate and Assembly are showing their support for a new bill that “prevents fees from being charged for the issuance of license plates where the vehicle has legible plates.”

While leaving the door open for a compromise, Governor Cuomo has defended the plate replacement program, saying it’s important for the state’s electronic tolling cameras. 

“If your license plate is damaged and it’s peeling or it’s bent or it’s old and the reflective coating is gone, the camera won’t work,” said Cuomo.

According to the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles, older, peeling license plates can be replaced free of charge. Drivers who bring in plates that show wear from “natural use, fading, chips or crash damage” must pay to have them replaced.

In a late August statement, New York DMV Commissioner Mark Schroeder said the administration has time to “explore alternatives” with the legislature before the plate replacement program goes into effect in April 2020.