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Specialty license plates support Texans' interests

By Maxine Shapiro, KERA 90.1 Commentator

Dallas, TX – We love our cars, and some of us are beginning to love our license plates. The state of Texas has found a creative and lucrative way for people to support and bring awareness to their causes while driving down the road. I'm Maxine Shapiro with Marketplace Middays.

Yesterday in Austin, the state of Texas awarded 200 Girl Scouts scholarships worth $800 each. The funding came from the sale of specialty license plates with the Girl Scout emblem on them. This is how it works. You pay an additional $30 over your regular vehicle registration fee. $20 of it will go in the Girl Scout account in the state treasury, and the remaining $10 goes to the credit of the state highway fund. Fees, allocations and benefits do vary from plate to plate.

There are over 100 specialty license plates, and I wish I could name every one of them. There are six main categories. In the "Universities and Colleges," there are 48 collegiate plates. After certain costs are met, the remaining dollars go into the universities' scholarship program. By the end of fiscal year 2001, Texas A&M (for example) received almost $700,000.

In the "Military/Veterans" category, in some cases the plates are free or very cheap. You'll need to prove that you are either a veteran or in the military. A couple of the "Miscellaneous" include the antique vehicle plate and the most popular plate of all: the personalized or vanity plate. That money goes straight into the state revenue fund.

"Organizations" is the largest category. That's where you'll find the second most popular plate: the State of the Arts plate, which funds the Commission on the Arts. By the end of fiscal 2001, the Commission received almost $1.5 million. They've given out over $1 million worth of grants to all kinds of artists and arts programs. "Animal Friendly" has received over $650,000, and "Read to Succeed," over $100,000.

These are just seven of the over 100 plates to choose from, and they are all brought to you by the Texas Department of Transportation. As deficit budgets become the norm, here's a way to help fund your favorite cause. I'm Maxine Shapiro with Marketplace Middays.

Marketplace Midday Reports air on KERA 90.1 Monday - Friday at 1:04 P.M.