GOP Budget-Cutting May Coin New Dollar

DOLLARS would jangle in Americans' pockets rather than pad their wallets if Republican budget-cutters get their way.

They're eyeing millions in savings that could result from replacing $1 bills that wear out in 17 months with $1 coins lasting 30 years.

A diverse coalition of special interests -- ranging from blind operators of concession stands to public transit companies to copper-mining corporations -- is backing the effort.

The opposition -- paper and ink companies and the unions involved in printing the bills -- has over the years succeeded in blocking the coin forces. But the coin proponents' cause has been given new life this year by the Republican Congress's struggle to balance the budget.

Although it costs twice as much to mint a coin as print a bill -- 8 cents vs. 4 cents -- the coins last 21 times longer, says Rep. Jim Kolbe (R) of Arizona, who has introduced legislation to replace the dollar bill with a coin.

Nearly every other industrial nation already has switched to high-denomination coins. Canada, for instance, has a $1 coin, nicknamed the ''Loonie'' after the picture of a loon that it carries. It plans to introduce a $2 coin next year.

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