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Poll: NYers overwhelmingly oppose new license plate plan

New York's new license plate will feature Niagara

New York's new license plate will feature Niagara Falls, the Statue of Liberty, the New York City skyline and a lighthouse.  Photo Credit: NY Governor's Office

ALBANY — New Yorkers sure don’t like Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s plan to force motorists to turn in any license plate more than 10 years old and replace it with a new one, along with paying a $25 fee.

A Siena Research Institute poll released Tuesday found sentiment is running about 2-1 against the idea.

According to Siena, 60 percent of registered voters oppose the mandate while 31 percent favor it. 

And the opposition is clear across every demographic, political and geographical category. Republicans, Democrats, independents, men, women, upstate, downstate and New York City residents all oppose the idea, which the governor unveiled in August.

Further, 75 percent said the fee was “unfair,” compared with 23 percent who had no objection. And just 10 percent participated in an online survey to choose the new license plate design.

A Cuomo aide said Tuesday the plan wasn't "going forward" until the administration discusses it with the State Legislature.

“New Yorkers of every stripe — regardless of party, region, gender, race or age — oppose the new requirement to surrender license plates that are at least a decade old for newly designed state license plates,” Steve Greenberg, spokesman for the Siena poll, said in a statement.

Cuomo announced the plan earlier this summer, pitching it as an online contest for New Yorkers to vote for one of five proposed designs. The Democrat said it was necessary to facilitate a “cashless toll” system on toll roads and bridges that reads license plates.

Tucked into the announcement was the mandate to turn in old plates.

The current fee for changing plates is $25. But critics have pointed out the law doesn’t dictate the amount but rather says it’s not to “exceed $25” — meaning the Cuomo administration could lower it if it wanted.

Among the most outspoken critics, Sen. Jim Tedisco (R-Schenectady) issued a report saying the cost to manufacture license plates is a bit more than $1 — because prisoners at the state penitentiary in Auburn make them.

Faced with the blowback, Cuomo’s administration softened its stance. The governor’s motor vehicles commissioner recently said that the matter could be negotiated with the State Legislature and that they were open to allowing drivers to keep their plates as long as they are readable by new electronic scanners on toll roads and bridges.

Reacting to the Siena poll, Cuomo aide Rich Azzopardi said: “As the DMV commissioner said weeks ago, this proposal isn’t going forward as we have committed to working with the legislature to create a plan that ensures plates are readable by law enforcement and cashless tolling systems and creates a process where plates older than 10 years are inspected and, if still readable, can be kept.”    

The new plate will remind motorists of a not-too-distant past one. The new design features Niagara Falls and the New York City skyline, mimicking the blue-and-white license plate in use up to 2009. But the new one has the design at the bottom rather than the top, and is blue, white and gold. Instead of reading "The Empire State," it will read “Excelsior,” the state motto, in gold at the bottom. Under the plan, it would be issued starting in April.

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