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Goldfinch still No. 1 Iowa specialty license plate

James Q. Lynch, CR Gazette –

The goldfinch license plate remained the most popular specialty plate offered by the Iowa Department of Transportation in fiscal 2012. Iowans bought 26,032 goldfinch plates — $45 for a new goldfinch plate and a $25 renewal fee each year, according to a new report from the non-partisan Legislative Services Agency.

Collegiate plates also were popular, with motorists buying 18,510 University of Iowa black-and-gold plates. 12,407 Iowa State University plates also were sold, along with 1,711 University of Northern Iowa plates.

The 24 military plates the DOT offers accounted for another 9,574 plates.

All told, Iowans bought 117,636 specialty plates in the year ending June 30, 2012, according to the Legislative Services Agency. That’s about 3 percent of the more than 4 million vehicles registered in Iowa, according to the DOT.

Department of Natural Resources plates, which include the goldfinch as well as plates depicting trout, an eagle, deer and pheasants, accounted for 38,624, or one-third of the specialty plates in 2012.

The DNR plates generated about $450,000 in revenue for the state Resource Enhancement and Protection program, which funds projects at the city, county and state level. That’s on top of the $12 million appropriated by the Legislature.

“It’s not insignificant,” DNR spokesman Kevin Baskins said.

Baskin isn’t surprised the goldfinch is the most popular plate. It was the original specialty plate offered by the DOT, so it has been around the longest.

Also, he said, it has broad appeal among motorists who support conservation efforts. The other DNR plates are geared more to those who hunt pheasants or deer or fish for trout, he said.

There has been discussion about adding another fish plate — one that would appeal to anglers other than those who fish for trout, Baskins said. More Iowans fish than hunt, he added.

In addition to the 32,628 regents university collegiate plates, the DOT sold another 1,884 private college plates.

The most popular military plates were the veteran plate (4,541) and Purple Heart (1,421).

A fee from the veteran plate, which is sponsored by the Department of Veterans Affairs, is credited to the Veterans License Fee Fund. The revenue is appropriated to the Veterans Affairs Commission.

About one-third of all specialty plates sold, 37,389, were personalized.

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