Editorial: Senator’s license plate bill stinks

We’ve heard of smoke-and-mirrors budgeting before, but touting electronic license plates as a moneymaker for cash-starved California takes gimmickry to a whole new (low) level.

In case you haven’t heard, state Sen. Curren Price, D-Los Angeles, is sponsoring a bill that would allow the state to research use of the electronic plates, which are being developed by at least one company.

Details are sketchy, but as proposed, the high-tech plates would display digital advertisements or messages when motorists are idling longer than four seconds — when they’re waiting for a red light to change, for instance, or are stuck in rush-hour traffic.

We agree with readers who are worried that this would be yet another unnecessary distraction for drivers.

Sen. Price, however, sees this as a creative way to generate money for the state.

Desperate is more like it.

What next? Gap ads on the covers of public school textbooks? Voting booths by Martha Stewart? A neon Nike swoosh on the dome of the state Capitol?

Granted, with so much digital messaging in the world today, electronic license plates may be inevitable — a newfangled form of bumper sticker that will be commonplace 20 years from now.

But instead of hyping flashy license plates, right now lawmakers would be better off concentrating on finding real solutions to California’s looming $20 billion shortfall. Otherwise, voters might be driven to replace them.