CASPER, Wyo. — Sorry, George, can you spare the dollar?
U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi is co-sponsoring legislation introduced Tuesday that would phase out the $1 paper bill and replace it with a $1 coin. The move, the Wyoming Republican said, could save taxpayers billions and reduce the federal deficit.
That’s because coins last far longer than paper currency. Coins circulate for about 25 years, on average, while each $1 bill has an average lifespan of 4.7 years.
The switch would save about $5.6 billion over 30 years, according to a Government Accountability Office report issued last year.
Enzi also noted in a media release that most major western countries have already switched to higher-denomination coins. When Canada moved to the $1 “Loonie” coin 25 years ago, the release noted, the country saved at a rate 10 times initial government projections.
Proposals to scrap U.S. dollar bills for coins have been around since the mid-1980s, introduced by lawmakers primarily to benefit mining interests. But with the federal debt level approaching $15.3 trillion, the idea has received renewed attention in recent months.
But it’s unclear how receptive the American public would be to replacing the greenback with a dollar coin.
In December, the Obama administration announced the U.S. Mint would cease production on a series of unpopular $1 presidential coins. Vice President Joe Biden estimated $1.4 billion worth of the dollar coins were “literally just sitting around unused” in Federal Reserve vaults “because nobody wants them.”
Vending machine companies and mass transit agencies have come out in support of a $1 coin, but paper and ink producers and the armored-car industry oppose the move — the latter because of worries over increased gas costs because of the additional weight.