Cuomo Spokesman Says License Plate Renewal Plan Won't "Go Forward"

Sep 17, 2019

A spokesman for New York Governor Andrew Cuomo says a plan to charge up to $45 for a requirement that license plates more than 10 years old be replaced is no longer going forward. The news comes after a Siena College poll finds New Yorkers strongly oppose having to pay for new license plates.

Three quarters of those asked in the poll say they think the $25 fee for the new license plates to replace plates ten years-old or older is unfair.

Those who want to keep their current plate number would have to pay an additional $20. The program, which was expected to earn the state an estimated $75 million in new fees, has touched a nerve. Siena spokesman Steve Greenberg says most New Yorkers’ only interaction with state government is with the Department of Motor Vehicles.

“Everybody has to deal with DMV,” Greenberg said. “It’s the part of state government that probably most New Yorkers interact with.”

Cuomo, a Democrat, said in late August that it’s up to the legislature to waive or lower the $25 fee for the new plates, or to change the proposal to require new plates.

A senior advisor to Cuomo, Rich Azzopardi, in a statement Tuesday, says the license plate replacement program won’t be carried out next April, as planned, as long as the legislature comes up with a plan that “ensures plates are readable by law enforcement and cashless tolling systems” and creates an inspection process to make sure plates that are older than 10 years are still legible.

Azzopardi criticized Siena for even asking the question about the plates in the first place.

“Why Siena would spend its time polling outdated information is beyond me,” Azzopardi said. 

Several Republican lawmakers and a few Democrats have spoken out against the proposal, and some counties led by Republicans have approved resolutions opposing the new requirement.

GOP Senator Jim Tedisco, speaking on public TV’s New York Now, called the proposal a “highway heist.” Tedisco says he filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the DMV for the true cost of the new plates, which are manufactured by state prisoners, but received no answer. He believes the actual costs of the plates is closer to just over $1. The news of   the new license plate replacement fee was revealed as part of a contest over the summer that allowed New Yorkers to choose the design for the new plates.

“Does the public want a multimillion dollar plate replacement fee program when they have the highest registration costs right now in the nation?” Tedisco asked. “And their plates are fine.”

Cuomo has said a 2009 law requires that the state charge $25 for each license plate. Tedisco says that law says the state can charge “up to” $25, so the fee could actually be much less. 

Following the announcement that the plan would be rescinded, Tedisco declared in a statement that “the highway heist is over."

Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, one of the few Democrats who spoke out against the plan, says he’s “glad” the governor and the DMV commissioner realized it was a “bad idea from the start." Santabarbara says he wants the legislature to pass a law saying that the DMV can’t ever again initiate a similar plan.

“You never know when these issues magically resurface down the road,” Santabarbara said. “So we do need to have something in statute that says that this can’t happen in the future.”

Santabarbara says he doesn’t see a need to change the state’s inspection process. He says inspections already examine whether a license plate is faulty and needs to be replaced.

None of the ill will toward the new license plates has so far rubbed off on Cuomo. The poll finds the governor’s favorability rating has improved from an all-time low of 43% in August, to 48% now. Just slightly more than one third of New Yorkers, 38%, think he is doing a good job in office.