Gov. DeSantis to seek $1B gas tax hiatus to lift inflation’s burden on Floridians

However, motorists would have to wait months to experience relief

By: - November 22, 2021 1:27 pm

Gov. Ron DeSantis appeared during a news conference on Nov. 22, 2021, in Jacksonville. Source: Screenshot/DeSantis Facebook

Gov. Ron DeSantis will ask the Florida Legislature to suspend collections of Florida’s gas tax to provide relief from rising inflation, saying the move would save Floridians more than $1 billion.

“The average family, over a five- or six-month period, you know, could save up to $200,” the governor said Monday during a news conference at a Buc-ees gas station in Daytona Beach.

The move won’t affect the 18.4 percent federal fuel tax or local-option taxes, but “we’re taking over 25 cents [per gallon] from Florida and we will basically zero that out for as long as we can and do over $1 billion” in savings, DeSantis said.

The average price of a gallon of regular gas in Florida is 3.35 cents, according to AAA. The exact state tax rate per gallon is 26.5 cents per gallon as families prepare to undertake Thanksgiving travel.

The governor, running for reelection next November and possibly for president in 2024, blamed the Biden administration for driving inflation and divisiveness through its policies, including his attempt to impose vaccine mandates in the workplace.

President Joe Biden, “I think, committed a fraud on the public when he said he was going to unite people. He has not. He is being captive by a very militant leftist impulse in his party. This is an impulse that I think the vast majority of Americans reject, but, nevertheless, that’s what’s driving this,” he said during a second press conference in Jacksonville.

The governor indicated that it would take months for his tax suspension to take effect. He plans to propose it as part of his recommended budget for the 2022-23 fiscal year, he said — meaning the Legislature likely won’t vote it into law until the very end of the 60-day regular session, which doesn’t open until Jan. 11.

The next fiscal year begins on July 1, although the Legislature could vote to have the suspension take effect upon passage of the budget bills if it chooses.

DeSantis noted that Florida is operating a budget surplus at the moment (he didn’t mention that federal COVID aid contributed mightily) and said the state will have enough money even with the tax suspension to continue its roadbuilding program.

U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist had called upon DeSantis last week to suspend gas tax collections through the end of the year; state Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services Nikki Fried also had urged the governor last week to do something about gas prices. Both are Democrats seeking to unseat DeSantis next year.

Gov. DeSantis is a day late and a dollar short. Last week’s not-so-special session should have addressed this issue instead of focusing on making COVID easier to spread. As a result, in the best case Floridians will be waiting months for any reduction in gas taxes,” Crist tweeted Monday.

Major distributors including Buc-ees and Wawa have agreed to pass along the savings to consumers, the governor said.

“It’s the right thing to do but it’s also smart. You know, a place like Buc-ee’s, the more people that come in here, they’re not just buying gas, they’re buying all this other stuff,” DeSantis said.

DeSantis blamed “inflationary policies out of Washington. Florida is, obviously, not causing this. It’s happening all across the country.”

As of Wednesday, the Consumer Price Index was some 6.2 percent higher than it was one year ago, according to an analysis by the Associated Press. The blame lies with the disruption COVID caused the economy, which is playing out now in the form of disrupted supply chains that make goods scarcer and more expensive.

Additionally, employers have had to pay higher wages to draw the labor force back to job sites and are passing along some of those increases. These problems to some degree are happening worldwide.

Thanksgiving spending will cost consumers 20 percent more this year than last, DeSantis said in Jacksonville.

He accused Biden of breaking campaign promises to unite the country and contain COVID.

“His proposals that he’s done are more divisive than any policies, Republican or Democrat, in my lifetime, that I can think of. And so, that’s what’s driving the dissatisfaction,” the governor said.

But then, I think it’s like, wait a minute, how is it uniting the country to have an open border? How did it unite the country to be humiliated in Afghanistan? How is it uniting the country to try to impose mandates that are going to cause millions of Americans to potentially lose jobs or livelihoods?” he continued.

“We have just a responsibility to stand up for folks. And we’ve guarded Floridians’ jobs zealously, their freedoms zealously, from threats from all comers, but that happens to be coming out of Washington, D.C.”

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Michael Moline
Michael Moline

Michael Moline has covered politics and the legal system for more than 30 years. He is a former managing editor of the San Francisco Daily Journal and former assistant managing editor of The National Law Journal. He began his career covering the Florida Capitol for United Press International. More recently, he wrote for Florida Politics.

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