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Assemblyman Jones rips DMV’s license plate replacement fees

Assemblyman Billy Jones D-Plattsburgh, attends the Saranac Lake Central School District’s Ready for School event to show his support and offer $50,000 he had secured from the state for the community schools initiative. (Enterprise photo — Kevin Shea)

PLATTSBURGH — State Assemblyman Billy Jones on Friday publicly opposed a plan by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration to establish new license plates and charge vehicle owners for them.

Jones, who lives in Plattsburgh, is a Democrat, as is the governor; nevertheless, he called the license plate fee proposal “outrageous” and “ludicrous.”

“The cost of living in New York is already too high, and North Country families are struggling to make ends meet,” Jones said in a public statement. “But instead of looking for ways to make life more affordable, the state Department of Motor Vehicles wants to force drivers who have plates that are at least 10 years old to pay a fee for mandatory replacement plates. To take even more of our hard-earned money is simply outrageous.”

Cuomo announced recently a public vote to choose among five new license plate designs. Blowback ensued from some quarters over the accompanying plan for the DMV to charge $25 for a new plate plus $20 to keep one’s current plate number. Replacement would be mandatory if the plate is 10 years old or more.

Some described the plan as a revenue grab wrapped in the guise of a plate-choosing contest.

The governor’s office is asking New Yorkers to vote among five options for new license plates.

Cuomo defended the plan, saying the new plates are necessary because some plates have peeling paint that makes them unreadable by EZ Pass cameras on the New York Thruway. Peeling has been a problem with a large number of plates issued in recent years, particularly those with numbers beginning with the letter “F.”

“I agree that if the DMV wants to replace old and peeling plates, they should do so at no cost to drivers,” Jones said.

On WAMC radio Thursday morning, Cuomo further responded to the criticism by saying the state Legislature and former Gov. David Paterson initiated the DMV’s new-plate fee 10 years ago, before he was governor.

The 2009 law set the fee at anywhere up to $25, but the DMV has charged the maximum amount in each of Cuomo’s years as governor, according to the Times Union of Albany.

Jones also disputes the five license plate options, which focus on New York City images such as the Statue of Liberty and the new Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge, named for the current governor’s father. One of the plate options also includes Niagara Falls and faint mountains in the background.

“Any new license plate design should represent every corner of our state,” Jones said. “North Country residents had no input in this process and are not represented in the proposed plate designs.

“Instead of charging this ludicrous fee, let’s fix the plates we have or find a solution that doesn’t impact hardworking families.”

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