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The state Department of Motor Vehicles unveiled New York's latest license plate Tuesday. The Empire Gold plate will be issued beginning in April, according to State Commissioner of Motor Vehicles and chairman of the Governor's Traffic Safety Committee David J. Swarts.

The plate features New York state's official colors of blue and gold, with a small silhouette of the state in the center. All motorists will be required to replace their existing plates with the design.

Swarts said the replacement plan will generate $129 million for the state's General Fund during a two-year period.

Sen. James Seward, R-Milford, has started an online petition campaign against the replacement mandate.

"Additional taxes and fee increases like new license plates will only drive more people and businesses out of the state, provided they can afford to keep their cars on the road," Seward said in a media release.

"The people in the 51st District have offered up a resounding 'no' to the governor's plan to force New Yorkers to buy new license plates," Seward said. "In just a few short days, 5,000 individuals have signed my online petition calling on the governor to put the brakes on the new plates."

Seward's petition can be found online at www.senatorjimseward.com.

"These new plates are nothing more than fool's gold and New Yorkers don't want any part of the sham," Seward added in another media release. "Families and individuals are already dealing with higher taxes and new fees thanks to the record-spending state budget, which I opposed. Clearly they cannot afford to fork over anymore of their hard-earned cash."

County clerks across the state have also initiated a campaign against the license-plate replacement plan and have collected thousands of signatures in opposition.

Officials said it is necessary to reissue plates periodically to ensure they remain legible and reflective. The Empire plate, first issued in 2001, was guaranteed for five years, officials said.

The DMV will begin issuing the Empire Gold plates for registration renewals that expire in May. Customers renewing their vehicle registrations in person in a DMV office, by phone, mail or online will receive their Empire Gold plates in the mail. Customers completing an over-the-counter registration transaction will receive their plates immediately.

The replacement will take place as part of scheduled vehicle registration and renewal and will take two years to complete.

A plate fee of $25 will be added to the registration renewal fee. Single-plate registrations, such as motorcycles, will be charged a plate fee of $12.50. Motorists may pay a $20 fee to keep their plate number. Motorists holding personalized plates will not have to pay an additional fee.

For more information, visit the DMV website at www.nysdmv.com.

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