New York's new license plate

The new New York license plates will feature stylized views of Niagara Falls, the Statue of Liberty and the New York City skyline.

New York state officials are now indicating that if a license plate is in good condition and it can be read by plate-reading technology, drivers may be able to keep them on their vehicles.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo faced heavy criticism when his office unveiled a plan to require three million drivers with plates that are 10 years or older to automatically get new plates when they renew their registration. A $25 replacement fee would be added to the registration fee, with an additional $20 if drivers want to keep the same license plate number.

Cuomo has insisted the replacements are necessary for electronic plate readers, like red-light cameras and cashless tolling systems.

It appears state officials are softening their requirement, saying that if a plate is in good condition and readable then drivers can keep it — if the state can find a way to inspect license plates

Cuomo told CBS New York last week that if the license plate is in “fine condition” the state would be open to people keeping their license plate, but that the state would need to find a way to inspect a license plate to determine whether it needs to be replaced. Cuomo raised the possibility of adding this to the annual car inspection process.

State DMV Commissioner Mark J.F. Schroeder says he would welcome it if the Legislature can agree to a cost-effective and practical plate inspection mechanism.

“The 10-year life replacement program does not go into effect until next April, so we have time to work with the legislature to explore alternatives. We support reducing costs wherever possible,” Schroeder says.

State Sen. Rob Ortt, R-North Tonawanda, proposes legislation that would give the DMV the ability to waive the $25 fee. Ortt criticizes the governor for his latest statements, saying he should issue the license plates free of charge.

“I am impressed that three weeks after the governor’s disastrous rollout of license plate renewal fees, he has found yet another excuse for his unpopular money grab by playing the public safety card,” Ortt says. “If the governor wants to find a practical way to ensure all of the license plates are suitable to his liking, then he should issue every driver in New York a license plate free of charge.”

Jim Eckstrom is executive editor of the Olean Times Herald and Bradford Publishing Co. His email is