ALBANY — Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Thursday lashed out at state lawmakers after his decision to require the replacement of 10-year old license plates drew bipartisan pushback.
When asked recently about the policy, which will cost New Yorkers at least $25 per vehicle, Cuomo blamed the Legislature and former Gov. David Paterson for the fee that the state Department of Motor Vehicle charges for new plates.
“The fact is the Legislature set the $25 fee 10 years ago, before I was governor,” Cuomo told WAMC News on Thursday morning.
While a maximum fee of $25 was written into law in 2009, the administration has chosen to charge the upper limit since the governor took office in 2011, and has not taken steps to lower the fee on its own. Under the current law, the state DMV could charge any amount — $1, $2, $24.99 and so on — as long as the cost does not exceed $25.
Statements from the governor and his administration on Thursday indicated he was prepared to tweak the fee — but not by himself.
During the WAMC News interview, Cuomo called out a handful of state senators that have criticized his policy, including Republican Jim Tedisco of Glenville, and dared them to “change the law.” He also blamed them for setting the fee, even though none of them voted for the increased fee ceiling.
The new replacement policy, which was tucked into a press release announcing new plate designs, has been criticized as a “revenue enhancer wrapped in a public relations ploy” by E.J. McMahon of the fiscally conservative Empire Center for Public Policy.
But the governor has tried to duck any responsibility for what the state Department of Motor Vehicles charges, and has instead blamed the state Legislature for the cost.
On Thursday afternoon, in a statement echoing Cuomo, state DMV Commissioner Mark Schroeder accused certain legislators of trying to score “cheap press hits.”
“Some legislators have now expressed an interest in lowering the fee. The governor would like to lower the fee,” Schroeder said, seeming to imply that the governor lacked the power to do so unilaterally. “If the legislators are sincere and want to lower the fee immediately, although they haven’t in the past decade, the governor has made clear he invites them back for a special session to do it.”
The DMV did not respond this week to questions about the new plate fee.
Cuomo has stressed that the mandatory replacement policy is to assist the state’s license plate-reading machines. A press release from his office said that older plates are difficult or impossible to scan as the result of damage, oxidation and peeling — but New Yorkers can get peeling plates replaced for free.
Schroeder also expressed a willingness to tweak the replacement policy before it’s rolled out in April, saying the DMV would be open to legislative suggestions on plans to determine if a license plate needs to be replaced after 10 years.
Since the policy was announced last week, legislators on both sides of the aisle have rolled out plans to circumvent the replacement mandate. The Democratic leaders in both houses have been mum on the issue, while the GOP leaders have lambasted the policy.
A bill introduced Wednesday by Sen. Monica Martinez, a Long Island Democrat, would prohibit the state from requiring license plates to be replaced unless they have been damaged. The measure also requires inspections of license plates during vehicle inspections.
Tedisco said Thursday that the state Senate should hold hearings on the issue.
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