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Glad Cuomo shifted gears on plate policy

New Yorkers will not be forced to replace their license plates once the plates are at least 10 years old, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office.

Cuomo’s plan would have began in the spring. In addition to a $25 replacement fee, drivers who wanted to keep their old license plate numbers would have had to pay an additional $20. A Siena College poll released early Tuesday showed New Yorkers were overwhelmingly against the forced license plate replacement, and later in the day Rich Azzopardi, a spokesman for Cuomo, said officials reversed their policy weeks ago.

While it is true that some in the Cuomo administration had said the administration was working on new plans or were open to working with state legislators, nothing had leaked out that the plate replacement plan was dead. In fact, the governor had thrown the controversy back to the state Legislature several times, saying the $25 fee was due to a state law and saying the legislature could always change the law if it felt strongly enough about the issue. We have a feeling the formal announcement that a new plan was needed came when 60% of respondents to the Siena College poll were against requiring drivers to replace their license plates while 75% said the $25 fee was unfair. The Siena poll only reinforced what many state legislators had already heard — the public feels it pays more than enough for the privilege of driving a vehicle in New York state.

Cuomo had said the main reason for requiring new plates was that old, peeling plates can’t be read by EZ Pass Thruway scanners — but the public knew the flawed plates were the state’s fault, not theirs, and they shouldn’t have to pay for the problem.

We’re sure the taxpaying public would push back on more state policies if people felt they had an opening, but the license plate fee hike was handled publicly enough that they felt free to voice their opposition. The public’s reaction to the state’s latest proposed fee increase is one reason New York’s government likes to push through these sorts of bills during a 72-hour rush to end a legislative session, or create special commissions that issue recommendations during the holidays when people aren’t paying attention.

When state leaders don’t like what the public has to say, that’s a sign that our democracy is a little out of alignment — kind hearing a funny noise from your car or truck tells you something is out of whack under the hood.

We thank Cuomo for changing this policy based on public opinion. The people need their state leaders to have the humility, and the political pragmatism, to open up channels for public input, to listen and to make changes accordingly.

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