Recently, Governor Cuomo of New York announced a contest where residents could vote for new license plate designs. The catch: there is a $25 fee for the plates (and additional $20 to retain one’s previous plate numbers) for all vehicles over ten-years-old, starting with biannual registration renewals next April.

The fee (actually a tax), is added to the already high renewal cost, averaging between $120 and $150.

Adding to the absurdity of the situation: one of the license plate images residents can vote for is a picture of the new Tappan Zee bridge, which was named the Mario Cuomo bridge after a late-night, backroom deal orchestrated by the Governor.

All these new costs will be piled on already struggling New York taxpayers. It’s not the worst tax faced by New Yorkers, but in typical fashion for Albany and Governor Cuomo, it amounts to a dishonest money grab.

Governor Cuomo stated the fee was set at $25 in order to cover the cost of the license plate production. But the license plates are produced by the company Corcraft, run by the New York Department of Corrections and Community Supervision. While new plates cost between 50 cents and $5.65, Corcraft’s workforce consists of prisoners, who, when making the plates, earn on average 65 cents an hour. This means a surplus of income for the state, not just the amount necessary to pay production costs.

The fee has existed since 2009 when Governor David Paterson imposed it in response to the financial crisis. Then a desperate move triggered by factors outside Albany’s control, now it seems more like a desperate move caused by Albany’s own gross mismanagement of the state budget.

Even if Cuomo was careful to not call upon fiscal necessity as the reason for the new fees. Make no mistake, the income made from the fee will go directly into the state’s general fund. The excess revenue won’t go into improving the roads or any other infrastructure. The new fee is supposed to raise New York’s tax revenue in part to help combat the state’s growing budget deficit, which could be significant next year. The yearly deficit has only grown larger from the mass exodus of many of the state’s highest taxpayers, and the estimated $75 million dollar revenue will barely begin to help.

Even some Democrats have challenged the Governor on this. State Senator David Carlucci (D-Rockland) contested the claims stating, “I’m not convinced about this cashless tolling issue. I have had hundreds of individual complaints; serious problems where people have had massive unpaid fines, either with Thruway Authority or the MTA and never once did I hear it was the license plate that could’ve been at fault.” He is one among several Democratic lawmakers opposing the fee.