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Senators Introduce $1 Coin Legislation to Save Taxpayer Dollars, Reduce Deficit

January 31, 2012

Senators Introduce $1 Coin Legislation to Save Taxpayer Dollars, Reduce Deficit

Companion legislation introduced in U.S. House

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A bipartisan group of Senators led by Tom Harkin (D-IA) and John McCain (R-AZ) today introduced legislation that promotes the $1 coin as a way to save taxpayer dollars and reduce the federal deficit.  The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has advocated for this change for more than two decades to help reduce government spending.  Senators Harkin and McCain were joined in introducing this legislation by Senators Tom Coburn (R - OK) and Mike Enzi (R-WY).   

“Promoting the dollar coin is a smart investment for our country that saves taxpayer’s money,” said Harkin.  “With the deficit looming, we need only look at the cost-savings from this effort to understand why this legislation is so urgently needed.  I am hopeful that this bipartisan legislation will continue to gain traction in Congress.”

“With our Nation’s debt now over $15 trillion, Congress must look at every area of the federal government, big or small, to save money,” said Senator John McCain. “By moving from the costly dollar bill to the dollar coin, we can save real money and show the American taxpayer that we are serious about cutting spending in Washington.”

The reasoning behind the Currency Optimization, Innovation, and National Savings (COINS) Act is numerous:

The GAO has examined this issue five times (in 1990, 1993, 1995, 2000 and 2011) and has reached the same conclusion – the U.S. should transition away from a $1 note and move to a $1 coin. The numbers vary in each report, but the GAO has estimated savings of anywhere from nearly $200 million to more than half a billion dollars saved per year by making the transition.

In addition, virtually every modern economy has made this switch to higher denomination coins.  Most major western countries in the world has made this transition without so much as a ripple of impact to businesses or consumers.  All saved a great deal of money by doing so. In fact, according to reports from the Canadian government, when they moved to the $1 “Loonie” coin 25 years ago, the country saved at a rate ten times initial government projections. Countries with coins worth more than a dollar include Canada, Great Britain, Japan, the Euro Zone, Australia, Switzerland and others.  

The dollar coin will save money for those engaged in a large number of transactions like large retail stores, vending machines operators and transit agencies.  A study by the Philadelphia transit agency, for example, showed that it was three and one half times cheaper to process coins than notes.   

The $1 coin is durable and environmentally-friendly. Most dollar bills currently in circulation were made within the last three years.  Dollar coins officially last 30 years.  To put it another way, a single dollar coin can do the job of at least 17 dollar bills over the course of its lifetime. When the coin, which is made almost exclusively from existing scrap metal gets pulled from circulation, it is 100 percent recyclable.  In contrast, the government disposes of 7,600 tons – that’s 15.2 million pounds – of currency paper each year.  

The COINS Act is supported by the Dollar Coin Alliance, a coalition of American small businesses, budget watchdogs, trade associations and private companies with a singular focus of moving the United States toward an economical, environmentally friendly dollar coin. Members include Citizens Against Government Waste, the International Association of Machinists, the National Bulk Vendors Association, Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, Tri-State Automatic Merchandising Council and United Steelworkers.

The bill introduced today is a companion bill to the COINS Act in the House, HR 2977, introduced by Congressman David Schweikert (R-AZ).  The House bill currently has the bipartisan support of eleven co-sponsors.