Pa. legislation could infl8 vanity plate cost

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If the Legislature approves the transportation funding bill now pending in the state Senate, the price of vanity license plates will S CA L8.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. John Rafferty, R-Montgomery, would raise the one-time fee for personalized plates from the current $20 to $76. The same increase would apply to the hundreds of special organization plates that recognize various groups and institutions.

Pennsylvania's vanity plate fee has never been raised and is among the lowest in the nation. In several states, drivers with personalized plates pay annually for the privilege, while here the fee is one-time-only. That would not change under Mr. Rafferty's legislation, Senate Bill 1.

Ohio and Maryland charge a $50 annual fee for personalized plates. New York charges $60 up front for the plates and $31.25 per year in addition to the base registration fee. In Illinois, changing to a personalized or vanity plate costs $76 to $123 up front.

Vanity plates have been riding the bumpers of vehicles in the state since 1964, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation spokeswoman Jan McKnight said. As of December, 285,532 of them were in use, accounting for about 2.5 percent of the 11.5 million license plates in circulation.

PG graphic: We're so vain
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New orders per year have increased by nearly 50 percent in the past five years, reaching a total of 23,558 last year, according to PennDOT.

The proposed increases are among many driver and vehicle fees that would rise if Senate Bill 1 becomes law. The measure is intended to raise up to $2.5 billion in new revenue for roads, bridges, public transit and other transportation modes.

The annual fee for passenger vehicle registrations would rise from the current $36 to $52, but the state also would switch to a two-year registration cycle, so drivers would pay $104 every two years.

A driver's license that currently costs $29.50 and is valid for four years would cost $50.50 and be valid for six years. A provision in the legislation exempts those 65 and older from the increase.

Learner's permits would cost $19, up from $5. The fee for issuing a vehicle title, now $22.50, would rise to $33. Certified copies of various records from PennDOT and state police, which now cost $5, would jump to $19.

Those are among scores of fee increases proposed on everything from registering a motorcycle or an antique car to hauling oversized loads on state highways.

The legislation also would hit the wallets of traffic violators. A new minimum fine of $100 (plus court costs) would be imposed under the "obedience to traffic-control devices" provision that police officers and district judges often use to grant leniency in more serious offenses. The current fine is $25 plus costs.

The extra $75 would go to a trust fund for public transit.

The legislation was approved by the Senate Transportation Committee in a 13-1 vote on Tuesday and has 28 Senate co-sponsors, signaling likely passage when it comes up for a vote in the full Senate, possibly early next month. Its future in the state House is less certain.

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Jon Schmitz: or 412-263-1868.


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