Saying it will save money, the Obama administration is scrapping the production of dollar coins, even as an Arizona congressman wants them to replace greenbacks.
Vice President Joe Biden announced Tuesday the administration is ending the "wasteful production" of the coins. He said while there was some interest in the series of presidential and Native American coins, more than 40 percent have been returned to Federal Reserve banks because people didn't want them.
Biden said the result is there are 1.4 billion coins sitting in vaults. He said scrapping production except for a relative handful for collectors will save taxpayers at least $50 million a year in production and storage costs.
But Arizona Congressman David Schweikert said the administration has it all wrong. He said real savings would occur by doing the exact opposite: halting production of dollar bills.
He has legislation pending to do just that.
Schweikert acknowledged low public acceptance of dollar coins. In fact, the latest series is the third attempt to make dollar coins popular.
And Schweikert said he's willing to go along with the administration's decision to suspend further production, given that 1.4 billion stockpile.
But he believes Americans could be made to love the coin - or at least use it - if dollar bills were gone.
In 2005, Congress mandated that the Mint issue four new presidential dollar coins each year from 2007 to 2016. Federal law also requires that at least 20 percent of dollar coins issued have to honor Native American tribes.
The General Accounting Office says the cost of minting a coin is about 15 cents, compared with less than 3 cents for a paper bill. But the average life span of a bill is about three years, versus 30 years for a coin. Schweikert said the U.S. would save $184 million a year if it did away with dollar bills.
The dollar coins are made of 85 percent copper, a mainstay of Arizona's mining industry.
The administration's move to stop producing dollar coins does not require congressional approval. The Mint will still be required by law to produce a small number of coins for collectors, starting with the President Chester A. Arthur coin to be released in the spring.