|Nathaniel Brooks/NY Times|
We're here, in Syracuse and Buffalo and the North Country, in the Southern Tier and the Catskills, in the Adirondacks and on Long Island, or in the five boroughs, we're sitting out here enjoying our end of summer BBQs, the Great New York State Fair, back to school shopping and the like.
But meanwhile, back in Albany, the wheels of government keep turning, and churning, and causing trouble. This time? New license plates.
That's right - the DMV has determined that we need new plates for the scanners that we'll use when we go to cashless tolling next year. The scanners need crisp, non-faded, non-peeling plates, or they won't be able to identify people to bill when they don't have an E-ZPass transponder. New plates will be required at the time of registration if the current plates are 10 years old or more - and it'll cost $25 to get new plates, or $45 if you like your random number or have vanity plates and want to keep them.
To distract us from the kerfuffle our Sonofa Gov, Andrew Cuomo, announced a contest where we could pick the design for our new license plate. There are five designs, four of which feature Excelsior, the state's motto, at the bottom of the plate. The one that doesn't have the motto? The one that has the Mario don't forget the M Cuomo Bridge; not sure if that's a way to get votes for that one, or if it was just an oversight. (Voting closes on Monday, so there's still time for you to vote for #5.)
Needless to say, people are in an uproar - "it's just another Cuomo money grab" is a common lament, as if the money was going directly to the governor for his personal use. Politicians, in a rare showing of bipartisanship, are mad on the left and the right and everywhere in between. And blame? Oh my, there's plenty to go around.
For example, the governor is blaming his predecessor, David Patterson, and the Legislature for the cost. Here's that piece of insight:
The fact is the Legislature set the $25 fee 10 years ago, before I was governor.Similarly, DMV commissioner Mark Schroeder said, in a statement,
Some legislators have now expressed an interest in lowering the fee. The governor would like to lower the fee. If the legislators are sincere and want to lower the fee immediately, although they haven't in the last decade, the governor has made clear he invites them back for a special session to do it.The thing is, $25 is the maximum that can be charged, not the required amount that needs to be charged - but these are politicians, after all, so there's no way they'd charge, say, a quarter or a dollar to make the change.
And, of course, it ignores the fact that today, a peeling plate can be replaced - for free. So why next year does it have to cost as much as $45? Schroeder seemed to suggest that maybe the fee won't stand the test of time, noting
The 10-year-life replacement program does not go into effect until next April so we have time to work with the Legislature to explore alternatives. We support reducing costs wherever possible.Even after the laughter died down across the state, no word was forthcoming on who decided on the maximum fee, or why whoever made that decision doesn't just un-make it and choose a lesser amount.
The legislators are not sitting still, either. One Long Island Dem, Senator Monica Martinez, submitted a bill that would protect plates from replacement unless they're damaged. Her bill would also make license plate inspection part of the annual vehicle inspection. On the other side of the aisle, Schenectady-area Republican Senator Jim Tedisco has taken a different approach, pointing out in his own statement that legislators
have a sworn duty to represent our constituents and hold a public hearing to hold the Administration and the DMV accountable and get answers as to what happened with the old plates, why they believe the mandatory license plate fees are necessary, and where the money is going.To a lot of this, I say Poppycock!
- We don't need hearings, we need the DMV or the Sonofa Gov to explain their plan, justify why they need $75M+ for the cashless tolling system (and tell us why that wasn't included in the legislation that authorized the switch) - or they can just drop the fee to something reasonable, like $5 bucks. Or zero.
- Regarding the Martinez bill, if inspecting license plates becomes part of a vehicle inspection, how will that impact the price of an inspection? Will there be a separate charge for the license inspection? Guidelines issues on how to determine what whether a plate is damaged? Training for inspectors? Laugh if you will, but we're in New York and a simple, two-paragraph bill can't be allowed to stand on its own here, can it? And, one more thing -- the Legislature is not in session, so who read her bill twice and submitted it to committee?
- And to Cuomo and the DMV, requiring new plates for New Yorkers to ensure they're readable is one thing, but what about plates from other states and Canadian provinces, which may also be damaged and unreadable? What's the plan for those, when we go cashless? Inquiring minds want to know.
If the money is truly needed, show us why. If it's not needed, or it was an arbitrary decision, come clean.
If the Legislature really needs to have hearings on something, let them have hearings on how they're justifying their full-time salaries for part-time work. Because if you ask me, that's a real money grab.
And remember, voting closes on Labor Day, so get your vote in now for plate #5, just in case this whole thing doesn't fall apart in the next couple of weeks.