EUGENE, Ore. -- Oregon drivers can currently pick a fir tree, salmon or Crater Lake license plates.
But a potential new option is winding its way through the state legislature.
Under legislation sponsored by Rep. Kevin Cameron of Salem, drivers could select an Oregon Wine Country themed plate. The idea is backed by Cultivating Communities, an arm of Travel Salem.
Like other cultural trust plates, drivers would pay an extra fee of about $53. Angie Morris of Travel Salem said the idea of the plate is to help boost tourism to Oregon’s wineries.
“This is a tourism bill,” said Morris. “The wine industry is part of the tourism industry and this is an effort to pump dollars back into local economies across the state.”
Under the legislation, 50 percent of money raised would go to vineyard and winery initiatives in Yamhill, Marion and Polk counties. Thirty-five percent would be shared among initiatives in the state’s other 33 counties. Fifteen percent of funds would help pay for plate manufacturing.
Morris said the plate will create a dedicated source of money to help promote tourism among Oregon wineries.
Morris said overall the idea is supported, but some disagree with how the money is distributed.
Angela Bennett of the Silvan Ridge Winery in Eugene said some could argue the money is distributed disproportionally and favors wineries that already have a strong tourism presence.
Bennett said she supports the idea of the new plate – a plate that has potential to raise a lot of money for Oregon wineries.
For example, according to the Oregon Department of Motor Vehicles, the salmon plate has raised more than $7 million for Oregon Watershed Enhancement and State Parks in 13 years and the Crater Lake plate has raised $4.3 million for the National Park Foundation since 2002.
“Do we need those funds? Yes. Are we chopped liver? No,” said Bennett. “I see both sides of the issue. It could be seen as a bit unfair, but [the plate] is recognition to me that people are taking notice that this is a real industry for us – that we’re here and that is really good for the state.”
Bennett said Yamhill, Marion and Polk counties are home to about two-thirds of the state’s wineries.