‘Heritage’ designs add flare to NM license plates

SANTA FE (KRQE) – Drivers have a lot to choose from when picking out a license plate. There’s the traditional yellow, turquoise, and everyone has seen the UNM Lobo plate. Now, there’s a proposal to give drivers even more options.

They are scattered on the streets. Specialty license plates include Lobo pride, veterans, drivers can even add a little flare with a fish. Aside from the yellow and turquoise, New Mexico drivers have 28 specialty plates to choose from. But how about the Duke, chile peppers, even a Roswell alien?

“Well it sounds cool, it sounds quirky, like Albuquerque does quirky stuff like that all the time,” said Emily Warzeniak.

All new designs could be offered as part of a proposed “heritage” series of license plates. Republican State Representative, Cathrynn Brown of Carlsbad, is sponsoring the legislation.

“I think it’s also a neat idea because it makes our cars something of a promotion for the state, as we travel to other places,” Brown explained.

In Brown’s bill, some designs are distinctive to the state, such as the roadrunner, the Route 66 logo, or a Navajo code talker.

The bill also includes design ideas featuring a wild turkey, even a horned lizard. “I don’t think anybody’s gonna get that,” Brandie Hogsett chuckled.

Currently, some specialty plates are more popular than others. Drivers spend up to $30 extra for a special design.

Most of the money goes back to the sponsoring organization.

“Who knows which is going to sell?” said Paul Gessing, President of the Rio Grande Foundation. “It seems like a very expensive, resource intensive project for the state.”

Gessing pointed out, there’s a lack of promotion for specialty plates, and many end up sitting at MVD.

“I don’t know how you’d collect license plates in a way that’s beneficial to the taxpayers in the state,” Gessing added.

Gessing said the plates could be a big investment, in creating and maintaining stock for each new design. But it’s an investment Brown claims is worth it.

“It would have no negative fiscal impact on the state if we were to have these heritage plates available,” Brown told KRQE News 13.

“People will see some of these emblems that reflect some of our history, and I think it might drop some interest about visiting New Mexico,” Brown added.

“I could see people being into this if they were aware of it,” said Hogsett. “The people I see spending money on this would be the younger generation.”

A spokesperson for the state Tax and Revenue Department, which oversees MVD, told KRQE News 13 specialty plates are ordered 100 at-a-time, according to supply and demand.

House Bill 561 to add more specialty plates should be discussed in a transportation legislative committee this week, or next.

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