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Fate of the dollar coin polarises Washington
Published:  08 March, 2012

Once again, the dollar coin issue has polarised opinion in the federal government.

The Obama administration has recently imposed a policy change to terminate the production of dollar coins, except in small quantities for collectors. But for more than 20 years, the amusement and other coin-related industries have jointly pushed for the complete elimination of the dollar bill, which they would like to see replaced by the permanent use of dollar coins.

Senators Tom Harkin and John McCain are leading a bipartisan group that has proposed legislation to definitively phase out the $1 bank note, while also encouraging wider circulation of dollar coins. Called the Currency Optimization, Innovation and National Savings Act (COINS), the bill was introduced in the U.S. Senate on 31 January.

The bill will be a companion to the COINS Act in the House of Representatives, introduced in September 2011. The House bill also has bipartisan support of 11 co-sponsors.

This is the fifth time since 1990 that the issue has been evaluated. The last analysis took place in 2011, and the federal General Accounting Office (GAO) has released the same report each time: it strongly urges the government to phase out the $1 note in favor of the $1 coin. Although estimates have varied through the years, the GAO projects that annual savings of at least $200m, and possibly more than $500m, could be made from this transition.

The United States is one of few major western countries still using a note of such a small denomination. Experts believe its loss would not prove detrimental to business or consumers, and it would help industries such as vending, amusement, transit and retail.

The durable $1 coin is environmentally friendly and 100 percent recyclable, minted almost entirely from existing scrap metal. It lasts approximately 30 years, equal to at least 17 dollar bill lifespans.

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