Lobbying

The Bid to Eliminate Dollar Bills


For lawmakers looking for ways to cut the projected $1.6 trillion deficit, David DuGoff has an idea: dollar coins. DuGoff, the owner of College Park Car Wash in Maryland, is a member of a new coalition, the Dollar Coin Alliance. The group's goal: outlawing dollar bills and replacing them with coins. Signing on to the cause is an odd mix of car wash owners and others who rely on vending machines that often reject paper bills; Brink's, the armored transport company that offers coin sorting and wrapping services; and mining companies, which would benefit from greater demand for metal.

DuGoff has been preaching the primacy of coinage for almost a decade. He argues that the current mood for deficit reduction makes this time different. The alliance is seizing on a report released earlier this month by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, Congress's investigative arm, that found using metal dollars instead of paper ones would save the government $5.5 billion over the next 30 years, since it earns revenue on the difference between the coins' production costs and their face value. That translates to about $184 million annually, an amount that the coalition concedes won't balance the budget but isn't pocket change, either. Citizens Against Government Waste, a prominent group of budget hawks, has joined the campaign. "This cuts across party lines," says Shawn Smeallie, the alliance's lobbyist and a former aide to President George H.W. Bush. "For a Republican, you are not raising one tax. And for Democrats, you are not cutting one program."

The group's opposition? The public. Since the Mint's 1979 introduction of the Susan B. Anthony dollar, dollar coins have been summarily rejected by consumers who don't want to lug around heavy change. The 2000 release of the Sacagawea dollar and the 2007 launch of the Presidential dollar coin series did little to spur interest.

To improve the image of dollar coins, the alliance is highlighting their environmental benefits (they're recycled instead of trashed like most bills) and pointing out that Europe, Australia, Britain, and Canada have already swapped their dollar-bill equivalents for coins. "If we can't get it done in this budgetary crisis, then it's not going to happen," says DuGoff.

The bottom line: Car wash owners and budget hawks have united behind dollar coins. The GAO says eliminating bills could save $184 million annually.

Schmidt is a reporter for Bloomberg News in Washington.

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