Florida tax collectors warn against changes to license plate distribution

2:49 PM, Oct 17, 2012   |    comments
Samples of four possible designs for new Florida license plates
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Tallahassee, Florida - Florida has just announced a plan to redesign its license plate and change the way it's distributed, and the idea is already facing stiff opposition from tax collectors around the state.

Tax collectors offered a show of force Wednesday against a proposal that would strip them of some responsibility for distributing license plates and transfer it to a private vendor.

Florida's 67 tax collectors would no longer handle online and mail distribution of license plates and registrations. Collectors strongly oppose that idea and want the state to know they will push to continue offering that service.

The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles believes hiring a private company to distribute many of the license plates would eliminate waste in the system and help save money.

But tax collectors believe the new system would cost motorists more money and lower customer service.

"Our concern is with the idea of doing away with a system that currently works, a system that currently works for the people of our communities and our counties and replacing it with a system that would hurt customer service. Let's not replace a system that is working well with one that is more expensive and less customer friendly."

Palm Beach County Tax Collector Anne Gannon echoed those sentiments.

"If it's not broke it doesn't need to be fixed and we don't think this is broke. We think this distribution chain works for us. It more importantly works for our clients. It works across the state and we don't think we should change it."

Florida is considering redesigning its license for the first time in more than a decade to make it easier to read. Under the plan, the state would replace 15 million license plates over two years starting in 2014.

Pinellas County Tax Collector Diane Nelson says her office, like 15 other counties, does not charge a mail fee. And by not charging that fee, she says counties are encouraging people to use the mail and online options so they don't have to pay to get their registrations and plates.

"We have found that when we charged the fee, the person came in in-person. So now you're driving people into the office and the idea is to let them be able to renew in the comfort of their own home and have their plate or decal mailed to them and we don't charge that mail fee and we mail out roughly about 900,000 registrations in Pinellas County."

The tax collectors contend people in those 16 counties with free mail and Internet orders would pay more if a private vendor started charging a fee for that service.

Gov. Rick Scott and members of the Florida Cabinet will consider the license plate redesign proposal next week, but they're postponing a decision on how to distribute the plates.

Dave Heller

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