Byline: Joyce Barrett

WASHINGTON — As the Republican-controlled Congress pinches pennies to pay for tax cuts, it’s advancing a plan to replace the dollar bill with coins.
Sponsored by Rep. Jim Kolbe (R., Ariz.), and tucked away in a sweeping bill that recommends $190 billion in spending cuts over five years, the idea of replacing the greenback with a coin is estimated to save the government $112 million over five years. Coins save money because they are lower maintenance and last about 30 years, compared to bills that last about a year and a half, according to a House staffer.
Retailers aren’t opposed to the idea as long as the coins are easy to differentiate from other coins in circulation, and as long as they replace the dollar bill, said Morrison Cain, vice president of the International Mass Retail Association.
“It absolutely has to be distinct by sight and feel from other coins,” Cain said, referring to the Susan B. Anthony dollar coin that was not accepted because of its similarity to the quarter.
“When people are operating registers fast, they often depend on feel, and if it can be mistaken for anything else it can be a problem,” Cain said.
Retailers also want to avoid having to deal with both coins and dollar bills at the same time, primarily because of the configuration of their cash registers, Cain said.
Kolbe is seeking to address both of these concerns. His proposed coin would be gold in color and would have distinctive edges, probably with 11 sides, an aide said. Also, the greenback would be phased out over 18 months.
“We’ll do everything to avoid another Susan B. Anthony situation,” the aide said.
The Kolbe proposal is included in the spending blueprint approved last week by the House Budget Committee. Because the committee’s bill is advisory, the coin plan must still be considered separately. A hearing is expected in May before the House Banking Committee and it could reach the House floor before the end of the year.
The coin idea is welcomed by vending machine operators and cities with mass transit operations. It is opposed by a coalition of paper and ink manufacturers.
— Fairchild News Service