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Dollar Bill Probably Safe From a Makeover

CQ WEEKLY – VANTAGE POINT
May 3, 2010 – Page 1070

By Kerry Young, CQ Staff

The introduction of a new $100 bill outfitted with the latest threads, colors and ribbons to foil counterfeiters leaves just one everyday note unaltered: the $1 bill.

The obvious reason Treasury hasn’t redesigned the dollar bill is that it’s not worth the bother of counterfeiting. But there’s much more to it than that: The vending machine industry doesn’t want the expense of retooling to accommodate a new bill, and the government still wants greater use of the $1 coin, even though previous attempts have fallen flat.

In fact, in 1999 Rep. Jim Kolbe, an Arizona Republican, included an amendment in his Treasury Appropriations bill banning a new $1 paper note, telling a reporter it would be a waste of money to reconfigure a bill that was “on the way out.”

Transit systems and vending machine companies were then preparing for the gold-colored Sacagawea dollar coin and lobbied against a new paper dollar. The coin never caught on, but Kolbe’s prohibition has been carried in every subsequent bill financing the Treasury. It has hung around longer than Kolbe, who left Congress in January 2007. And in 2008, the U.S. Mint kicked off its second campaign within a decade to try to persuade Americans to use more dollar coins, this time with a series featuring presidents.

Getting Americans to adopt dollar coins might save the government as much as $500 million annually, the Government Accountability Office reported in 2002. Although individual coins cost a bit more to produce, they last far longer, said Rod Gillis of the American Numismatic Association. But retailers don’t like coins because they don’t fit in most cash registers. The GAO has reported that Australia, Canada, Japan and the euro countries succeeded in switching to coins in denominations similar to $1 only by phasing out the paper note of the same value.

Source: CQ Weekly
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