The good news is Niagara Falls will appear on New York state’s new license plates. 

The bad news is, at this point, motorists here in Niagara County and across the state will soon be expected to pay $25 for the privilege of putting the new plates on their motor vehicles — With another $20 charge to keep their current plate numbers.

For those who missed it, the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles announced last week the winner of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s license plate selection contest, which featured five different designs. The version selected by a majority of voters includes images of the Falls as well as the Statue of Liberty and the New York City skyline. 

From our perspective, the selected plate, chosen by roughly half of the more than 300,000 New Yorkers who cast votes, is clearly better than the other alternatives because it does at least feature the Falls. It is certainly better than the least attractive option as deemed by voters — the design featuring New York City’s new Mario M. Cuomo Bridge, which the younger Cuomo had named after his father, the former governor. 

In addition to the welcome image of the Falls, the new plate design is attractive, far better than the yellow and blue variants that have been in circulation in recent years. 

Still, the price is and should be a sticking point for already beleaguered New York state residents. 

As has been pointed out by critics of the governor’s plan, the plates are produced by inmates at Auburn Correctional Facility who earn, on average, 65 cents per hour.

While the state will pay pennies for the production, state motorists will be expected to pay $25 for new plates under what will be a huge money maker for state government as it will pour an estimated $75 million into the state’s coffers. 

Some critics have referred to the governor’s proposal as a “money grab” and, when you do the math, that certainly seems like just what it is. 

Cuomo has suggested the new plates are needed to improve the efficiency of New York’s cashless tolling system which may well indeed be the case but, again, why are the motorists being expected to foot the bill to fix hiccups in the system?

Niagara County lawmakers have joined in the chorus of opponents of the plan, agreeing last week to formally support a piece of legislation proposed by state Sen. Rob Ortt, R-North Tonawanda, that seeks to waive the state-authorized fee associated with the mandatory license plate replacement. 

As county lawmakers and Ortt rightly noted, Cuomo’s administration set the price for the replacement plates at the maximum allowed. 

As they also correctly suggested, the state can still reissue the plates as part of the larger plan to address inefficiencies in the cashless tolling system by drastically reducing the fee or having the state pickup the tab altogether. 

“New York state motorists should not carry the burden of refunding the state for its implementation of an inefficient cashless tolling system,” the county resolution on the matter reads. 

We couldn’t agree more. 

Recommended for you