Arizona Public Radio | Your Source for NPR News
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
KNAU's main phone line is experiencing technical difficulties. Click here to contact members of our team directly.

State Congressional member thinks he has come up with a way to give up dollar bills for coins

By Howard Fischer

Phoenix, AZ – The key is not to give people a choice. Congressman David Schweikert said that's the mistake made when former U-S Representative Jim Kolbe got a law enacted in 1997 to create what would become the Sacagawea dollar. It was supposed to replace the wildly unpopular Susan B. Anthony dollar that some said felt and looked too much like a quarter. Schweikert acknowledged that effort -- and subsequent minting of other dollar coins -- proved no more successful.

(What we know from some of those is they were limited introductions into the market. Or they were not meant to ultimately replace the paper dollar. Our goal here is to make it very clear that, as we hit certain thresholds, this does replace the paper dollar.)

His measure directs the federal reserve to stop making dollar bills when 600 million dollar coins are in circulation. But Schweikert is not even relying on that trigger. The legislation says that, no matter what, there will be no more dollar bills printed four years after his bill becomes law. Schweikert said he's not afraid of his constituents rising up in anger. He said they key is his estimate that the move will save more than $180 million a year.

(I can't imagine anything where you can stand up and say you're saving this level of money. The overarching thing I get from town halls and discussions is find ways to save money. And don't make it painful. I'm hoping this meets that standard.)

It does cost about 15 cents to produce a coin, versus less than three cents for a bill. But Schweikert said that does not account for wear and tear.

(For like every four dollars that is printed, at the end of that year, three of those are already out of circulation. They have to be brought back in, torn up, destroyed. A coin has about a 30-year life.)

Schweikert contends it will not be necessary to wrest dollar bills from the hands, wallets and purses of Americans. He said the five euro bill is the smallest paper money among countries that use it, with one and two-euro coins. And Canada replaced its dollar bill with a coin commonly called a loonie because of the waterfowl image it carries. He conceded there is some of what he called obvious parochialism in his plan. The current crop of dollar coins is made up largely of copper, one of the state's major exports. For Arizona Public Radio this is Howard Fischer.