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The Utah State Centennial Commission is close to giving final approval to a new license plate design that will commemorate Utah's 100th birthday on Jan. 4, 1996.

The plate is important because revenues realized from voluntary sales to Utah motorists will finance most state and local centennial celebrations and activities.The commission has spent 12 months developing the license plate design. The effort began with an invitation to Utah artists to submit ideas. After selecting a basic design, the commission has worked closely with 3M Corp. to translate the design into a format compatible with license plate style limitations imposed by the State Tax Commission and the Utah Highway Patrol.

It will be up to the owners of the state's 1.3 million vehicles to determine the scope of Utah's centennial observance. The commission hopes to raise $3 million between Jan. 2, 1992 when the plate becomes available and Dec. 31, 1997 when the plate is phased out of use.

With enough public support, Utah can pay for the observance of an important state birthday with private donations rather than tax dollars.