By Jody Reese
For a state that prides itself on free and open government, there is one notable exception that confounds me. It’s the low-digit license plates.
We actually have a government department that secretly hands out low plate numbers to drivers. Given the limited supply of low-digit plates, the possession of such a plate has become somewhat of a status symbol and thus valuable. This means that a government agency is secretly handing out a perk that people find valuable.
At the very least, this perk is suspect because it can easily be used by the safety department to gain favor with legislators and the governor’s staff.
Even if everyone involved in this process is without political motives and a completely independent body were set up to hand out these plates, the question remains: why does this state offer low-digit plates at all? What is the governmental purpose for spending the time and money handing out these plates? I can’t think of one that is good for good governance. But I do have an idea that might bring our cash-strapped state some income.
Auction off the low-digit plate numbers. If there is limited supply and demand for this perk then it’s reasonable to assume people will pay for those plates. Why not offer them in an online auction with plate “1” starting out at $1,000. If all the plates under 2000 were to go for an average of $250, the state would raise $500,000 each year.
If charging for them ruins the cachet, then all the better.