Sen. Ritchie again opposes requiring vehicle owners to buy new license plates
Thursday, August 22, 2019 - 9:42 am

BY CRAIG FREILICH
North Country This Week

Not for the first time, State Sen. Patty Ritchie is opposing a plan by a Democratic governor that would require drivers to replace their license plates whether they want to or not.

Republicans in Albany are again accusing the administration of looking for a way to force drivers into paying for something they don’t need.

This will be the second time the North Country senator has opposed such a plan, for the same reason.

The first time was in 2009 when, as St. Lawrence County clerk, and responsible for much of the state Department of Motor Vehicles business in the county, she was outraged at what she saw as a ploy by Albany Democrats to fleece North Country drivers.

This summer, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office has announced a plan to make drivers replace the license plates they might have now beginning next year because the old plates are wearing out.

That was the same reason Gov. David Paterson gave in 2009 when he wanted to make drivers replace the blue and white plates they had with new newer gold and blue ones, for a fee.

But drivers said their blue-and-white plates were in fine shape and did not need replacing.

“It was the last straw, to be honest with you,” Ritchie told the New York Times in 2009. She was then president of the New York State Association of County Clerks and the founder of NoNewPlates.com, a Web site that she says attracted 56,000 visitors in less than a month.

Paterson was accused of cooking up a reason to increase state revenues through the Department of Motor Vehicles. His plan was sunk when a compromise was reached where people could keep their older plates and even swap them out onto newly purchased vehicles if the plate was still valid. Vehicle owners could buy the new plates if they wanted to, but they had to if they acquired another vehicle while the older registration had expired.

By then the Heuvelton Republican found she had an issue that would mushroom into momentum that helped her vault to the state capitol as a senator the next year.

Cuomo's office announced the new plan this week as a contest where people could vote for their choice of one of several very similar designs for the new plate, kicking off a "new 10-year license plate replacement program.”

"License plates are a symbol of who we are as a state and New Yorkers should have a voice and a vote in its final design," Cuomo said. "As the life span of the old plates comes to an end and we develop new ones that are as easy to read as possible, I encourage all residents to take part in choosing this piece of our state's history and the State Fair is a perfect place to do that."

The announcement said that “the new plates will replace the aging Empire Blue & White plates, most of which are more than 10 years old. Once the new plates become available, the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will also stop issuing the Empire Gold plates and begin fully transitioning to the new design,” whether the old blue and white plates or the newer “Empire Gold” plates were in good shape or not.

Ritchie announced Wednesday she is encouraging voters to sign a petition opposing the new license plate plan.

Under the plan announced this week, beginning on April 1 of next year, three million drivers with plates that are 10 years or older will automatically get new plates when they renew their registration, Ritchie said in her announcement. The new plates will come with a $25 fee, in addition to the registration renewal cost, and there will be an additional $20 fee to keep the same plate number.

“It’s estimated that replacing every current plate on the road will cost motorists at least $75 million in higher vehicle registration fees next year alone,” the senator’s announcement said.

According to the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles, replacing old plates will eliminate legibility issues for law enforcement, as well as automated toll systems.

“After raising taxes by $2 billion in this year’s budget, Albany is now looking for another way to burden hardworking taxpayers by making us buy new license plates for our cars, trucks and work vehicles—whether we need them or not,” said Ritchie.

“While I understand the need to replace peeling plates, as well as to ensure that plates can be read by automated tollbooths and law enforcement—I strongly disagree with asking New Yorkers to open their wallets and pay yet another unnecessary fee.”

“The last time this plan was proposed, hundreds of thousands of people signed my online petition to halt it, with many questioning how they could afford the new fee when they struggle to pay for essentials like groceries and medications,” she added.

“I am hopeful that people will again join with me and sign my petition to put the brakes on this plan to increase costs for drivers across our state.”

To sign Senator Ritchie’s petition, visit www.ritchie.nysenate.gov.

Ritchie, whose 48th District covers the western half of St. Lawrence County including Ogdensburg, Canton and Gouverneur and extends into Jefferson and Oswego counties, is joined in her opposition by her Assembly Republican colleague, Mark Walczyk of Watertown, who also represents part of St. Lawrence County.

Walczyk said the plan amounts to a new fee on taxpayers.

"This year we saw a state budget that imposed over $4 billion in new taxes and still grossly overestimated projected revenue. The new license plates that could cost north of $40 a plate and I view this as one more scheme to inequitably tax Upstate,” the assemblyman said.