Kearns: License plates are "cash grab" by New York

Clerk drafts letter urging NYS to reconsider introducing new plates

Mike Baggerman
August 21, 2019 - 3:00 am

Erie County Auto Bureau. July 25, 2019 (WBEN Photo/Mike Baggerman)


BUFFALO, N.Y. (WBEN) – Erie County Clerk Mickey Kearns believes that New York State’s plan to change the license plates on vehicles is a “cash grab” by New York State and criticized the governor for forcing the initiative at a time where many are burdened by other costs.  

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In one scenario, Kearns worries the move will affect the wallets of people who may have multiple cars. A car owner with license plates that are ten years old or older will be issued new plates for a $25 fee.  

However, he also cited the 2005 Real ID Act, which will require your driver license, permit, or ID card, to be REAL ID compliant in order to board a domestic flight, enter a military base, or federal building. That requirement will begin on October 1 of next year. There is no additional cost to get a Real ID but there is an additional $30 fee for anyone who is looking to upgrade to an Enhanced Driver License.

“It’s a lot of money in one year,” Kearns said about the additional costs for various requirements. “Especially when people are renewing their licenses, renewing their registration. It’s a lot of money that New York State will be getting and incurring. We’ve been hearing from constituents all day. We haven’t gotten any information from the DMV as agents.”

Kearns said that auto bureaus in Erie County can get peeling plates replaced at no charge. However, someone would now need to turn in those plates and pay the $25 charge for the new ones.

Kearns still has multiple questions and even wrote a letter to New York State Department of Motor Vehicles Commissioner Mark Schroeder to “reconsider any programs that place further unnecessary costs upon New York State residents” (read his full letter at the bottom of this story). The questions also include situations such as vanity plates or Purple Heart plates.

“We can’t answer these questions,” Kearns said. “So I drafted a letter and I’m hopeful we can get some more answers for these constituents.”

The press release sent out by the governor’s office caught Kearns by surprise. He found the initiative ironic because the legislators and the governor received a raise.

“Is this helping them pay for their raises?” Kearns asked. “It’s going to generate nearly an additional $16 million in revenue. There’s a lot of people on fixed incomes in Erie County that can’t afford an additional fee from the State of New York. Especially when driving is a necessity.”

Kearns has no ill-will to Schroeder, who has ties to Western New York as a state legislator and comptroller in the City of Buffalo. Kearns praised Schroeder for his openness and how hands-on he’s been locally.

“This did not come from the commissioner,” he said. “This came from the governor’s office. The commissioner works for the governor. This is a top-down initiative by the governor. It’s a money grab to take an additional $25 to $45 out of people’s pockets.”

New Yorkers have until September 2 to vote on the five plate options.

“The design I like is my current plate,” Kearns quipped. “But there’s only one out of five that represents Upstate New York.”

Mickey Kearns letter to Mark Schroeder in response to new plate designs. August 20, 2019 (WBEN Photo/Mike Baggerman)



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