Specialized license plates fund plenty besides California deficit

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License plate

The state of California has been caught skimming from a commemorative license plate fund. Photo Credit: Gareth Simpson/Wikimedia Commons/CC-BY

The state of California is the result of a bit of a brouhaha as the state was caught raiding funds from license plates commemorating Sept. 11, 2001. Despite the Golden State’s less than golden behavior, specialized license plates often fund some good causes.

California did not forget the account balance

A scandal has erupted in California as the state has been caught skimming a commemorative license plate fund, according to AutoBlog. The state has been selling a special license plate as a memorial to the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001 at a cost of $50 per set, with a $40 annual plate renewal fee.

Proceeds from sales were supposed to go to a scholarship fund for children whose parents were victims of the attacks and to counterterrorism initiatives.

At least $3 million of the $15 million generated in sales was skimmed by the state, which has been plagued by constant budget deficits for years. Roughly 40 percent of the proceeds went to defense projects, but no funds from sales have been given to the scholarship fund in seven years.

Egregious but isolated

Instances of a state dipping into specialty license plate funds to shore up its own troubles are not common, as California appears to be the only state caught doing so in recent memory. Gov. Jerry Brown, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, has ordered a probe into the books of  specialty license plate sales, which are administered in California, as with most states, by the Department of Motor Vehicles.

[Since so many great used cars are available, whether to buy new or used car is actually a tough choice]

It isn’t known if any other specialty plate funds were similarly skimmed from, though the sale of specialty plates in California has raised more than $250 million since the California DMV started selling them 20 years ago. A maximum of 25 percent of any proceeds can be used by the state to administer the programs or to promote them to motorists.

Mostly for good causes

Specialty license plates, though some consider them to be slightly inane, often help fund some very worthy causes. Anyone thinking of purchasing one should probably do so.

For instance, according to the Arizona Daily Wildcat, campus newspaper for the University of Arizona, U of A license plates sales resulted in more than $1 million in scholarship funds being distributed to U of A students from the license plate sales between 1990 and 2005. A similar plate for Colorado State University, according to the college’s alumni association, has raised and given more than $45,000 in scholarships since 2005.

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, “Save The Manatee” license plate sales raised $34 million between 1990 and 2007 for initiatives to protect habitats for and preserve the manatee, a unique aquatic mammal nearly facing extinction. The state of North Carolina, according to the Bladen Journal, was able to partially fund $398,955 for spaying and neutering pets for low-income people from sales of specialty license plates.

Anyone else know of some good done by buying specialty plates?

Sources

AutoBlog

AutoGuide

San Francisco Chronicle

Arizona Daily Wildcat: http://wc.arizona.edu/papers/98/98/01_5.html

Colorado State University Alumni Association: http://alumni.colostate.edu/Alumni/OfficialCSULicensePlates/tabid/165/Default.aspx

Florida Fish and Wildlife: http://myfwc.com/research/manatee/trust-fund/license-plate/new-look/

Bladen Journal: http://bladenjournal.com/view/full_story/17627838/article-N-C–%E2%80%98Animal-Lovers%E2%80%99-license-plates-help-fund-spay-neuter-programs-


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