By Jim Turner
Florida motorists can expect to pay more at the pump as the state’s month-long gas tax “holiday” ends.
The average price of a gallon of regular unleaded gas Monday stood at $3.29, about a dime cheaper than at the start of October. But the AAA auto club said that likely would change quickly when the state’s 25.3-cent-a-gallon gas tax returns Tuesday, after being suspended in October by lawmakers and Gov. Ron DeSantis.
“So it stands to reason that when the gas tax is reinstated on Tuesday, drivers will see a 25-cent jump at the pump,” the auto club said in a news release.
The tax break helped reduce the average price of a gallon of gas from $3.39 to $3.17 over the first five days of October, but an announcement by OPEC and its allies to cut oil production put the brakes on savings.
With oil prices jumping 17 percent globally since the OPEC announcement, Florida’s average increased to $3.41 a gallon by Oct. 14.
Pump prices have slowly declined again after President Joe Biden announced plans to draw an additional 15 million barrels from the nation’s reserves by the end of the year to offset the production cut.
During a gubernatorial debate last week in Fort Pierce, Democratic candidate Charlie Crist criticized the tax holiday being held in the run-up to the Nov. 8 election.
“That’s so political, it’s disgusting,” Crist said. “We need to have a governor who will do what’s right for the people of Florida all the time, all year long. Not just when it’s right before a re-election.”
DeSantis, who signed the tax holiday as part of a larger package of tax breaks, has blamed global inflation and economic conditions on Biden Administration policies, which he said Crist supported.
“We have the fifth-lowest gas prices in the country right now because we did do a gas tax holiday. We’re proud of that,” DeSantis said during the debate.
DeSantis also pointed to a plan to ask lawmakers in 2023 to give frequent SunPass and E-Pass users a 50 percent monthly credit, which would be applied for a full year.
The state gas tax is used for transportation projects, and the tax holiday was estimated to reduce revenues by about $200 million. The state plans to tap a surplus of general revenue to make up the lost money. Similarly, DeSantis wants to use the surplus to make up any reductions in revenues from his proposal to give credits to frequent toll-road users.
Florida’s average gas price of $3.29 on Monday compared to a national average of $3.76, according to AAA. Florida hit an all-time average high of $4.89 a gallon on June 13 before prices declined through the summer.
The lowest average prices Monday were in the Panhandle, while the highest prices were in the West Palm Beach, Gainesville, and Naples areas.
The national average was $3.80 a gallon when October began and leaped to $3.90 after the OPEC announcement.