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Some license plates move faster than others

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By Shelby Salazar

Indiana offers nearly 110 specialty license plates as part of a program that generated more than $11 million in 2010 for not-for-profit organizations with a statewide beneficial impact.

This year, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and the Military Family Relief Fund will receive the most revenue from Hoosier specialty license plates.

The license plates cost $40, and $25 of the $40 goes to the participating organization to use or donate to other organizations.

All revenue from the DNR's environmental plate is donated to the Indiana Heritage Trust.

The environmental plate reached its peak revenue in 1996 when over 85,000 plates were purchased, generating $2,138,500 in sales. Since then, the number has slowly decreased.

Phil Bloom, spokesman for the DNR, said this is because the environmental plate was the "first so-called vanity plate for cars."

"As more vanity plates have become available to the people, sales have gone down," Bloom said. "The declining revenue hampers what we can and want to do."

According to the DNR's website, the plate has already raised over $22 million.

That $22 million in revenue has helped complete over 400 projects, such as the Goose Pond Fish and Wildlife area, which is made up of over 8,000 acres, and Hamilton County Parks.

Nick Heinzelman, director of the Indiana Heritage Trust, said even though all of the money from the plates goes directly into funding for projects such as these, the decline in revenue could prevent the completion of further projects.

"There is a backlog of properties we want to acquire," Heinzelman said. "We just don't have enough money to buy the land."

The Military Family Relief Fund receives donations through the sale of Hoosier Veterans license plates.

The fund helps to provide grants to help with the financial needs of families who have a deployed spouse.

The Indianapolis Colts, Indiana University and Purdue University round out the top-five selling Hoosier specialty license plates.

Earlham College, Grace College and Seminary and Trine University all produce the least revenue in specialty license plates.

GraigLubsen, the deputy communications director for the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles, said Indiana law requires that a specialty plate be discontinued if less than 2,000 plates are sold within the first four years.

He said regardless of performance within the first four years, all license plates are re-evaluated every five years as part of a plate cycle.

Lubsen said the BMV has "never actually discontinued a plate."

-- Franklin College Statehouse Reporter Megan Banta contributed to this story.

The above is one of an ongoing series of reports from the Indiana Statehouse by students at the Franklin College Pulliam School of Journalism.

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