Gas tax break kicks in today

The state attorney general is taking steps to enforce the 8-cent decrease.


Published: Sunday, August 1, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, August 1, 2004 at 12:08 a.m.
A monthlong gasoline tax break approved by Florida lawmakers this spring begins today.
The tax cut will knock 8 cents from the state's 14.3-cents-per-gallon gasoline tax for all of August. It does not apply to diesel or other fuels.
Under the law, suppliers are expected to pass the break on to wholesalers, who in turn will pass it to retailers, and retailers to consumers.
Attorney General Charlie Crist has authority to prosecute violators, who would face a third-degree felony punishable by up to $5,000 in fines and up to five years in prison for failing to adhere to the law.
The attorney general's economic crimes division plans to conduct spot checks of the state's 400 gasoline wholesalers to verify that their invoices reflect the decrease. Crist also asked consumers to report suspected violations online at myfloridalegal.com.
Florida gas prices rose from just about $1.50 per gallon for self-serve regular unleaded gasoline in late 2003 to a peak of more than $2 per gallon in June.
Florida's average price for a gallon of regular gas is $1.927, just under 3 cents more than the national average of $1.899, according to AAA's Daily Fuel Gauge report.
Statewide, consumers, including government and mass transit agencies that use gasoline, should save about $60 million from today through midnight Aug. 31 as a result of the break, according to the state Department of Revenue.
Despite the projected savings, some said they had mixed feelings about the tax break that began at midnight. Industry officials even warned that the reduction may eat into a station's profits, at least during the first few days of the state-mandated roll back.
"I'm sure customers will like it, but the citizen in me wonders where the tax money is going to come from," said John Oliver, a manager at Archer Road Shell.
Jim Smith, president of the Florida Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association, said the tax cut could reduce retailer's profits early in the month.
Because Florida collects its gas tax from terminal suppliers, Smith said some gas station owners who have already purchased large supplies may refuse to drop their prices, at least until they've exhausted their current reserves.
"However, the public expectation is that the price is going to be 8 cents cheaper (today) than it was on Saturday," Smith said. "And that's why we're saying everyone should put a little salt and pepper on it and eat it."
Freddy Patel, who was managing the Williston Road Chevron in Gainesville on Saturday, said his store would comply with the law.
"Sometimes people get mad with us" for the price of gas, Patel said. Perhaps, he added, the break will be "a good thing, and people will be a little bit happy."
If customers at a Gainesville-area Kangaroo gas station Saturday evening are any indication, August will indeed be a "happy" month.
"I have a mini-van with a 25-gallon tank," Jennifer MacMullen, 32, of Gainesville, said as she pumped $5 dollars worth of regular unleaded into her vehicle.
"At $2 a gallon, that would be $50 to fill up. It's nuts. I haven't filled my gas tank up for who knows how long."
But with prices slashed until September, MacMullen said, maybe she'll splurge.
"I'll be back to get more tomorrow." Greg Bruno can be reached at (352) 374-5026 or greg.bruno@gvillesun.com. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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