WASHINGTON — Rep. Frank Lucas says the U.S. Mint could save millions of dollars a year if it just shrank the nickel.
Lucas, R-Cheyenne, has proposed legislation that would replace the nickel with a half-dime, a coin that would be slightly smaller and half the weight of the current dime. Since less metal would be required to make it, taxpayers would no longer have to pay more than nine cents to produce a coin that's only worth five cents.
"At a cost of 9.5 cents to produce and ship, there is a $58.5 million loss passed on to taxpayers each year,” Lucas said. "This is one more example of irresponsible spending by the federal government and one more reason why our national deficit has risen to over $9 trillion.”
Lucas may have more ideas in store
Lucas, a member of the House Financial Services Committee, will introduce a bill to replace the nickel; but, given that Congress has very few days left to work this year, he acknowledged the issue won't get much attention until next year.
According to Lucas' office, the half-dime was in use from 1792 until 1873, when lobbyists for the industry that produces nickel persuaded Congress to make the nickel-based coin. The rising cost of the metal has made the coin impractical, Lucas said.
Lucas has not yet proposed eliminating the penny, which some also see as wasteful.
Lucas' press aide, Leslie Shedd, said Lucas thinks there are other issues that he could discuss in the future to make the nation's currency more cost-effective.
"However, at this time, his first priority is to restore the half-dime,” Shedd said.