A state with a looming budget deficit — projected to total $600 million this fiscal year and $1.7 billion in the next — needs to cut costs wherever it can. License plate stickers, which contribute no direct benefit to taxpayers, are a good place to start.
As of Jan. 1, the state will do away with the tiny rectangular stickers that motorists long have had to affix to a corner of their license plates to prove that they have registered their vehicles. The state estimates that the move annually will save $1.1 million in printing costs. It also expects to save about $2 million annually in mailing costs.
In other words, the state will save $3.1 million a year without cutting a benefit or service to a single Pennsylvanian. If only all cost-cutting were this easy. The stickers, which other states already have done away with, have no real value anyway. A study by Penn State University showed that elimination of stickers in the other states had no impact on the number of people complying with registration requirements.
Police like them because expired or missing stickers give them a reason to pull over motorists who otherwise are driving legally. That sometimes enables them to discover other violations. But if other states eliminated the stickers without public-safety consequences, Pennsylvania can, too. Besides, the state has raised the possibility of using some of the $3.1 million in savings to give police departments grants for automated license plate readers that can access registration information.
State Rep. Dom Costa, D-Stanton Heights, a former Pittsburgh police chief, last year unsuccessfully attempted to keep the state from eliminating the stickers. He says he’s now working on a plan for a combined inspection and registration sticker, which would be applied at the inspection station.
He should forget about any such effort if it eats away at the money to be saved from eliminating the inspection stickers. The state needs that money, and Mr. Costa and other lawmakers should be on the lookout for other expenses that can be eliminated without affecting anyone.