Republican Legislators love specialty license plates. The House has bills for six new license plates in the queue. My big question is: Why are we doing this?
Specialty license plates are a way to funnel taxpayer dollars into designated charities or pet projects with seemingly innocuous bills for a license plate with a great-sounding name and a cool design. Any organization– or corporation– can get a specialty license plate. All they need is around $33,000 to design the plate and a Legislator who will propose it.
Once the plate has been approved and placed on the ADOT website, motorists can choose your design and pay an extra $25 a year to have that plate. Of that $25, $17 goes to the cause or charity that got the plate through the Legislature.
A charity can rake in $250,000 per year on a specialty plate, and the plates exist forever. This is the ultimate in picking winners and losers. Why should one charity be on the state gravy train– forever– and not another? Why are we using license plates to funnel money to charity anyway? What groups are making the most from the plates?
For-profit corporations like the Phoenix Suns and Arizona Cardinals have specialty license plates. These are essentially little advertising billboards driving around the country. (The Suns and the Cardinals should be paying us for ad placement.) The Suns and the Cardinals put their $17/plate into their foundations. When their foundations fund good causes (with your money), they get a tax write-off. Maybe your specialty plate fee would be better spent on roads? Can we get a specialty plate to fund infrastructure? What about a specialty plate for public education?
The University of Arizona, Arizona State University, Grand Canyon University and Midwestern University– all have specialty plates. How do they use these funds? Do they provide scholarships? Inquiring minds want to know.
Recently, we discovered that the funds from Arizona’s In God We Trust license plate go to the Alliance for Defending Freedom. This group has been identified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center because of their anti-LGBTQ stances. In my opinion, Arizona doesn’t adequately vet the charities that receive license plate funds. The Alliance for Defending Freedom has made $900,000 on its Arizona plate since 2014. (Fun Fact: When I Googled the In God We Trust license plate, I found that many states have that slogan on a plate. How many of those states are also funneling money to the same group through the license plate funds?)
Most Dems are voting NO on new plates until we do an accounting of the current plates and perhaps sunset a good portion of them. We need to know where our money is going.
Texas has 400 specialty plates, and Maryland has more than more than 500. Let’s not go there!