Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Partly Cloudy Night 61° Partly Cloudy
News >  Idaho

House to consider putting end to more specialty plates

Josh Wright Staff writer

BOISE – Idaho has 44 special license plates and 300 other causes want to be added to the list, says Rigby Rep. JoAn Wood, which is exactly why the state should stop issuing new plates.

“The program has been overused and become unnecessarily burdensome in its implementation,” according to legislation Wood wrote, which passed the House Transportation Committee Friday.

Idahoans can support everything from local state colleges to snowmobiling to Idaho wildlife by paying, in most cases, an extra $35 the first year and an additional $25 fee every year after that. Of that amount, $10 goes to the state to cover costs and the rest goes to the cause.

The program generated more than $885,000 last year to the Idaho Transportation Department as well as nearly $1.5 million combined to all the causes.

But if the longtime Republican’s bill passes, no new special plates will be granted after this year.

“Our county assessors and state police are having problems,” said Wood, the chairwoman of the committee, who added that many small counties don’t have the time or space to issue and house all the special plates.

Opponents of HB 101, which was sent to the full House on an 8-4 vote, argued it’s unfair to cut off future programs from raising money when the state allows so many to profit already.

“Maybe it is a little inconvenience,” said Rep. Joe Cannon, R-Blackfoot, “but we shouldn’t discourage people to rally around special causes.”

He and others pointed out that the same committee had already approved three special plates this year, including one for private Idaho colleges as well as a plate honoring the Basque heritage.

“How can we pass those, knowing this bill was coming?” Cannon asked the other lawmakers. “We’re saying, ‘Those are good causes, but all future causes don’t have a chance to be good.’ ”

Backers of the measure, including GOP Reps. Bob Nonini of Coeur d’Alene and Phil Hart of Athol, contended the new plates are bogging down the system.

“County assessors are turning into retail merchants,” said Rep. Richard Wills, R-Glenns Ferry. “People spend 15 minutes deciding what plate they want when they used to spend five. … We’ve got to draw the line somewhere.”

There have been 70 groups who have requested information from the ITD for special plates since 2001, according to Jeff Stratten, the department’s public affairs officer. Those include People for Pets, the Shriners and the Girl Scouts. Legislators often get requests from other organizations as well, he said.

Of the 44 special plates, only 29 make money from the program. The other 15 include military, Legislature and classic car plates.

Rep. Mary Lou Shepherd, R-Prichard, voted in favor of Wood’s bill, while Rep. Shirley Ringo, D-Moscow, voted against it. “If there isn’t sufficient support, I wouldn’t be opposed to increase the amount people have to pay,” Ringo said. “People do care about those plates.”

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

Local journalism is essential.

Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.

Active Person

Subscribe now to get breaking news alerts in your email inbox

Get breaking news delivered to your inbox as it happens.