Should we call it Plate-Gate?

No, that’s too dramatic. But nonetheless, people’s feathers are ruffled over a plan floated last week by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

He wants to compel drivers to replace their vehicle license plates if they are at least 10 years — and charge them a fee for doing so. The new plates would cost $25, and drivers would have to pay an additional $20 if they wanted to retain the license plate number they now have.

A news release issued Monday by the governor’s office argues that newer technology employed by government agencies has difficulty reading the numbers on older plates. Police departments, red light cameras and cashless toll sites do not always identify motorists who break the law because their license plate readers can’t properly register the numbers on a car or truck.

This is particularly true of license plates obtained at least a decade ago. More than 3 million of them are on the road today. Mr. Cuomo is even encouraging residents to vote on one of five designs for the new plates (http://wdt.me/WSPvXy).

However, charging $25 to get this new license plate is ridiculous. It certainly can’t cost this much to produce the plates, and drivers already pay a lot of money through a variety of fees.

A Class D driver’s license in New York state costs $64.50 to renew. Anyone who wants to bump up to an enhanced driver’s license would need to add $30 on top of this. Depending on how much a vehicle weighs, renewing a registration costs between $26 and $71.

So drivers already pay at least $90 every few years to the state Department of Motor Vehicles. Demanding another $25 for a new license plate is unacceptable.

State Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, opposed a similar move in 2009 when she served as St. Lawrence County clerk. Then-Gov. David A. Paterson also wanted to mandate new plates.

People pay $25 to obtain new plates. But Mr. Paterson’s idea of coercing them to replace older plates was rejected by lawmakers, according to a news release issued Wednesday by Mrs. Ritchie’s office.

A decade ago, Mrs. Ritchie collected hundreds of thousands of signatures on a petition to thwart this plan, and it proved successful. She has another petition to challenge Mr. Cuomo’s idea (http://wdt.me/zXtzCR).

State Rep. Mark C. Walczyk, R-Watertown, also opposes this proposal.

Given the new technology in use to read license plate numbers, requiring drivers to update older plates is reasonable; Mr. Cuomo gets points on this. But the fees he’s offering are too high.

State legislators need to find a happy medium between the excessive charges proposed by the governor and the move to stop the plan in its tracks being pursued by opponents. Mrs. Ritchie acknowledged that older plates cause difficulties for license plate reading technology, but she doesn’t offer any solution to this.

Lawmakers in Albany should work out a more reasonable fee for new plates and dump the idea of charging drivers to keep their current number. It costs the state nothing to merely retain this number, so why should drivers shell out more?

Most importantly, the state should specify where all this money is going. Motorists often feel like they’re being fleeced by the numerous fees, so we deserve to see how this revenue is being used. This is definitely one form of road rage that we no longer need.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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