DeSantis proposes $1 billion in statewide gas tax relief

The governor wants to lower gas prices by about 25 cents per gallon.

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Amid rising fuel costs and inflationary concerns nationwide, Gov. Ron DeSantis says he will ask the Florida Legislature for $1 billion in statewide gas tax relief to help lower costs.

DeSantis announced the proposal for a temporary suspension in the statewide gas tax Nov. 22 at news conferences at the Buc-ee’s gas station in Daytona Beach and at Daily’s Place on Kernan Boulevard in Jacksonville.

“Of all the things you’re seeing with the inflationary pressures, probably none pinch people as bad as these gas prices going up,” he said.

DeSantis was backed at the news conference by Daily’s parent First Coast Energy L.L.P. President Aubrey Edge; JAX Chamber President and CEO Daniel Davis; JaxPort CEO Eric Green; U.S.  Rep. John Rutherford; and state officials.

The state’s fuel tax is 26.5 cents per gallon. DeSantis said the goal would be to lower prices at the gas pump by around 25 cents per gallon. The governor did not say how the state would pay for the $1 billion in lost revenue.

According to AAA, Florida’s average gas price on Nov. 22 was $3.35 per gallon compared with $3.40 per gallon nationwide. In Jacksonville, it was $3.35 per gallon.

Relief also could be coming from market forces. GasBuddy, the website that tracks fuel prices nationwide, said Nov 22 said its experts predict the country could see drops of as much as 15 to 30 cents a gallon over the next few weeks. Crude oil prices have been falling, and are down more than 12% since the end of October.

The governor said he asked Edge and Buc-ee’s CEO Arch “Beaver” Aplin if gas retailers would lower the price if the state lowers the fuel tax.

“If we do this, and it goes into effect tomorrow, do you lower the price by 25 cents? And they all said, ‘we’re lowering the price,’” DeSantis said. 

During the news conference, Green said high fuel prices were “crippling” commercial drivers, including the 100 trucking companies who transport goods from JaxPort to Florida distributors and retailers.

DeSantis noted there are local option fuel taxes in some Florida cities and counties that would not be affected by his proposal. 

In May, the Jacksonville City Council approved a 6-cent per gallon increase and extension to Duval County’s local option gas tax to modernize the Downtown Skyway and fund a backlog of road and other infrastructure projects. 

Inflationary price hikes have seen a steady uptick in recent months. 

The U.S. inflation rate from October 2020 to October 2021 was 6.2% compared with 4.4% from September 2020 to September 2021, according to the nonprofit research organization The Brookings Institution.

The governor’s news conference in Jacksonville also served as a backdrop for his pushback against approved and anticipated federal spending and vaccine mandate policies from the Biden administration. DeSantis tried to link inflationary pressures to decisions in Washington, D.C. 

DeSantis is thought to be exploring a 2024 presidential run.

Biden signed a $1 trillion physical infrastructure bill Nov. 15, backed by the Democratic-controlled U.S. House and Senate with several Republicans signing on. 

The law appropriates funding to improve transportation and logistic infrastructure nationwide and build-out rural broadband internet access, according to The New York Times. 

The House advanced Biden’s $1.75 billion social spending plan Nov. 19 that would include items like paid family leave, universal pre-K education, and prescription drug price control. The bill has not been passed by the Senate. 

“We’ve got job openings and we’ve got a lot of creating jobs, and that’s great. We’re doing our part here in Florida.” DeSantis said. 

“But if the national economy has this inflation, even people who are earning more in income if the inflation is outstripping your additional earnings, then you’re actually losing ground.

“So, why they would want to be printing trillions of dollars more in the midst of inflation, you’ll have to tell me how that makes sense,” DeSantis said.

CBS News reported Nov. 19 that not all economists agree that these federal spending bills will add to U.S. inflation. 

“The timing is really important — that money will only start flowing into the economy maybe in the end of next year and in 2023 and on,” William Foster, vice president and senior credit officer at Moody’s Investors Service, said in the report.

“We think inflation will moderate by the middle of next year. By then, the supply-chain issues will work themselves out.”