Florida Gov. DeSantis wants six-month halt in state gas taxes next year

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said during a stop at a Daily's convenience store in Jacksonville on Monday he wants a six-month halt to state gas taxes next year that would save motorists $1 billion at the pump.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said during a stop at a Daily's convenience store in Jacksonville on Monday he wants a six-month halt to state gas taxes next year that would save motorists $1 billion at the pump.
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Gov. Ron DeSantis said Monday in Jacksonville he wants to zero out the state's gas tax for six months and deliver $1 billion of tax relief at the pump so Florida residents can deal with rising costs eating into their household budgets.

DeSantis, speaking inside a Daily's convenience store, did not specify a date for when he wants the gas tax holiday to begin next year. He said he will be working with state lawmakers on his proposal that would affect about 25 cents of the cost for a gallon of gas.

He faulted the policies of President Joe Biden for rising consumer prices.

"This Thanksgiving will be the most expensive Thanksgiving that we've seen in quite some time with over a 20 percent increase from just last year for all the good stuff that families throughout the country want to do," he said.

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Florida has one of the highest overall gas tax rates in the nation. On top of the federal government's tax of 18.4 cents per gallon, another 26.5 cents per gallon is controlled by state law. Finally, local governments can add up to 12 cents for a grand total of 56.9 cents in taxes for each gallon.

Jacksonville City Council and Mayor Lenny Curry supported doubling the local gas tax to 12 cents from 6 cents to raise money for a host of projects such as turning the downtown Skyway into a more expansive system using automatic vehicles.

The 6-cents per gallon increase in the local gas tax in Duval County will kick in Jan. 1. It will finance various transit, road, drainage, septic tank phaseout, and parks projects. The local tax would not be affected by DeSantis's proposal.

The governor would halt the state's portion of the gas tax for six months. He said he expects retailers will pass on those savings to customers by cutting gas prices in the same amount at the pump.

"Clearly, it's not going to eliminate all the inflation that has gone up so much, but it will make a real difference in folks' pocketbooks," DeSantis. "We've had a great history in this state of having low taxes and cutting taxes. There are different times you need to do that in different areas."

The state Legislature will convene on Jan. 11 for a 60-day session whose main order of business will be enacting a 2022-23 budget.

DeSantis said generating $1 billion in tax relief would require suspension of the tax "perhaps as much as six months, so we're going to work out those details with the Legislature" to change state law.

"Some people said why don't we do something for a month or two but we've got to do it longer than that," he said. "This will be many months and it will be a over a billion dollars so it will be real meaningful relief for people."

He and state Department of Transportation Secretary Kevin Thibault said the state can temporarily stop collecting state gas taxes without causing any delays in upcoming transportation projects because the state has large reserves on hand.

The average cost for a gallon of regular gas in Florida was about $3.35 per gallon in Florida on Sunday compared to $2.03 a year ago, according to AAA. In Duval County, the average price was about $3.33 per gallon.

The gas tax holiday would save the average Florida family $200, according to the governor's office. The amount of savings would vary based on how many miles a family drives and the fuel efficiency of its vehicles.

DeSantis announced his proposal at Buc-ee’s in Daytona Beach and at Daily’s in Jacksonville on Kernan Boulevard where customers coming into the store watched the news conference set up inside the building.

"Gov. DeSantis is spot on," said Aubrey Edge, president and CEO of Daily's, the Jacksonville-based chain of convenience stores. "It's tough right now keeping up with costs. Costs are rising and this is just an incredible way to give back to everyday Floridians."

Gas prices have emerged as an issue in next year's governor's race. U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and state Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, who are vying for the Democratic nomination, said Monday that DeSantis is late to provide a plan.

“After calling for Ron DeSantis to help Floridians at the gas pump, he’s finally getting around to helping our working families,” Fried tweeted on Monday. “The gas tax should have been suspended the second oil companies were running up their profits in spring, but better late than never.”

Crist tweeted that DeSantis is a "day late and a dollar short,"

“Last week’s not-so-special (legislative) session should have addressed this issue instead of focusing on making COVID easier to spread," Crist tweeted. "As a result, in the best-case Floridians will be waiting months for any reduction in gas taxes.”

Gas taxes also could be in the mix in the 2023 city election for for mayor. City Council member LeAnna Cumber, who voted against increasing the local gas tax and is exploring a run for mayor, said Monday that DeSantis's announcement is "a great step in the right direction."

She said she hopes that attention on the gas tax will look at ways to lower it on a permanent basis.

"It really does make a difference in people lives," she said.

This article originally appeared on Florida Times-Union: Gov. Ron DeSantis wants 6-month, $1 billion halt in state gas taxes