Lawmakers in Denver will vote on a bill Monday that would raise money for the 10th Mountain Division Foundation. The legislation would charge an extra fee for the 10th Mountain Division specialty license plate. After sailing through the House, the bill is getting a re-vote in the Senate. Aspen Public Radio's Marci Krivonen reports.
West Slope democrats Gail Schwartz and Millie Hamner are sponsoring the bill. It would transition the 10th Mountain Division license plate from a specialty plate into a charity plate. Representative Hamner says right now, the plate is one of the most popular specialty plates.
"What the bill would provide for is when people with the plate go to renew, it will provide them the opportunity to donate to the Foundation and also, allow people who purchase new plates to contribute as well," she says.
The commemorative license plate has been around since 1998. It recognizes the men from the 10th Mountain Division who fought in the Italian Campaign of 1945. These soldiers trained at Camp Hale, near Leadville. After the war, many of them developed ski areas, including Aspen.
Now, more than 12-thousand vehicles in Colorado have these plates. Tom Hames chairs the board for the 10th Mountain Division Foundation.
"Some people like them because they’re cool, others like them because they want to honor the 10th, and some have said they thought they were donating to 10th related charities," says Hames.
The Foundation would receive the donations collected through the license plate program. He says the plates could raise an additional $65,000 (per year) for the the organization.
"We have many projects that we can’t fund because we don’t have enough funding. That ranges from things like scholarships to wounded warrior programs, special projects, memorial ceremonies."
Some of the money could trickle to veterans’ programs in the Roaring Fork Valley. Adam McCabe is a board member for the Basalt-based group, Huts for Vets. It's a group that takes veterans into the wilderness for communal experiences and therapeutic healing. He says his organization already receives money from the 10th Foundation.
"The 10th now offers grants and they have resources and services, and we could just expect more of that," he says.
McCabe is in favor of the bill, in part, because he says many people with the plates think their purchase is already supporting veterans’ efforts.
"I think a lot of people are under the impression that when they go to support the 10th Mountain plates that, I think a lot of people make the assumption that that money is going toward veterans or going toward active duty personnel, and it’s not."
Right now, the $50 charge for the plate pays for its production and goes into a fund for highway projects.
Republican Senator Kevin Lundberg of Larimer County opposed the bill at a hearing in late March. He says it’s unfair to tack on an additional fee to an existing plate.
"If you’re going to start fresh for a plate, maybe that has a legitimate role, but to take an existing plate of which thousands of people in Colorado have chosen to put on their vehicles and now say to them, whatever this organization establishes as the amount to assess for the use of those plates, I believe that’s a bait and switch."
If it becomes a charity plate, the fee for existing plate-holders would be put off for a few years and it could jump from $50 to $100. That’s what Tom Hames of the 10th Mountain Division Foundation would recommend.
"And that’s similiar to/in the same range as other plates. I know that some of the alumni plates for some of the universities go for 100 dollars on top of the 50 (dollars)," he says.
The bill did receive approval from the House and the Senate in March but Republican Senator Greg Brophy requested the bill come back for reconsideration. Brophy represents Colorado’s northeastern counties and is running for governor. He did not return calls for comment about this story on Friday.