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Thousands join online fight against new NY plates

CANTON, N.Y. - CANTON, N.Y. (AP) — An upstate New York county clerk is carrying out an online petition drive to thwart Gov. David Paterson's plan to require all residents to purchase new license plates next April.

St. Lawrence County Clerk Patricia Ritchie said Thursday it's an outrage to ask families and businesses to pay more for new license plates they don't need or want when they are being battered by the ongoing recession.

"New York residents and motorists from as far as Plattsburgh and Brooklyn are raising their voices to tell Albany to stop picking our pockets to pay for more wasteful spending ... while our representatives add to their burden, instead of bringing relief," said Ritchie, estimating residents and businesses in her county will pay about $2.5 million for new plates.

More than 5,000 people have signed the petition since the Web site went up Monday to protest the new license plan, Ritchie said. Another 200 people who didn't have Internet access came to her office to sign their names, she said.

Beginning April 1, the state will require new license plates for every one of the estimated 10 million cars, trucks, trailers and ATVs registered in the state at a cost of $25 — a $10 increase over the current cost. If you want to keep your same license plate number, it will cost you another $20.

In September, the state increased driver's license and registration fees 25 percent.

The governor's office has said the new licenses could make $129 million for the cash-starved state, which has a projected budget deficit next year nearing $5 billion. The legislature last spring approved a measure authorizing the license plate plan.

"If the St. Lawrence County Clerk wants to eliminate $129 million in revenue for the state, she needs to suggest a way to replace it," said Morgan Hook, a spokesman for the governor.

"Is she calling for a $129 million tax hike? Is she calling for $129 million more in cuts to school aid? Because that's really what this petition drive is all about. This is the type of irresponsibility that led to the crisis we face today," he said.

New York license plates were last issued in 2001 and they need replacing for safety reasons because the reflectivity on many has worn out, Hook said.

"It's just pure revenue raising," said Myron Burns, president and CEO of Ray Burns and Sons Trucking Inc. in Canton, who signed the petition in Ritchie's office.

His company will have to switch over its entire fleet of 60 trucks and trailers. The registration fee hike in September already cost it more than $200 a truck, and now there will be more additional costs associated with the new plates to change all the company's overweight permits and amend its commercial registrations in Pennsylvania and Vermont, where it does some of its milk hauling business.

"It gets a little pricey," Burns said. "Just to say everybody should have new plates is ridiculous."

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