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Takeaways from Tallahassee — Gassed up for October

Gas tax jumpscare

With the start of October, Florida has entered the spooky season. But Florida has also entered the Motor Fuel Tax Relief Holiday season.

From now until Halloween, the state is waiving state and local gas taxes, a move that is expected to save Floridians an estimated $200 million.

Dominic Calabro, President and CEO of Florida TaxWatch thanked Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Republican-led Legislature for implementing the holiday, which was inspired by rising gas prices that peaked in mid-June.

Dominic Calabro and Florida TaxWatch say saving Floridians cash at the pump is a prudent move. Image via Florida TaxWatch.

“This year, people all across the country encountered record high costs at the gas pump, but fortunately for Floridians, they will receive some much-needed relief throughout the month of October with the new Motor Fuel Tax Relief holiday,” Calabro said.

Republicans say they chose to hold the holiday in October because it is one of two months with the least number of tourists on the road, meaning the benefits are more exclusive to Floridians — maybe help them pay for a trip to Halloween Horror Nights.

However, Democrats fear Republicans were pulling a more sinister stunt. Oct. 31 carries the gas tax holiday to about a week before the General Election, helping keep gas prices top of mind for voters, which could become a jumpscare for Democrats.

“While gas prices in Florida hit another record high, Floridians are stuck paying an extra 25 cents on every gallon so that Ron DeSantis can time a gas tax holiday around Election Day,” Florida Democratic Party spokesperson Kobie Christian said in a statement June 8. “Voters should remember that every time they’re feeling pain at the pump, it’s because Governor DeSantis is hoping it helps his reelection campaign.”

Republicans say the holiday was made possible by Florida’s record level of reserves. However, the state intends to use dollars from the American Rescue Plan, passed by Democrats in Congress and signed by President Joe Biden, to backfill the missing tax dollars.

Beyond the political implications, Calabro warned against the other horrors that could spawn from a sustained gas tax holiday.

“As a trusted government watchdog for over 40 years, we must urge leaders and decision-makers to be conscious of the impact any permanent gas tax reduction could have on critical transportation infrastructure or bonds,” Calabro said. “Anything that could potentially compromise Florida’s bond rating or the competitiveness that comes from having strong transportation infrastructure must be taken into consideration.”

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Tallahassee should also buckle up for the Senate District 3 debate on Monday.

The debate, which will feature Democratic Sen. Loranne Ausley and Republican challenger Corey Simon, will begin at noon at the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center. The Capital Tiger Bay Club is hosting the event, and POLITICO’s Gary Fineout will moderate. The debate will be preceded by a luncheon at 11:30 a.m.

It’s Ausley vs. Simon in Senate District 3.

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Coming up, the usual assortment of news, intel and observations from the week that was in Florida’s capital city by Peter Schorsch, Drew Wilson, Renzo Downey, Christine Jordan Sexton and the staff of Florida Politics.

But first …

Take 5

The “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:

Hurricane Ian strikes Southwest Florida — At least 21 people died during Hurricane Ian, according to state officials. The cyclone made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane, bringing storm surge as high as 18 feet to parts of Southwest Florida. Gov. Ron DeSantis has called Ian a “500-year flooding event” with “biblical storm surge,” which left barrier islands like Sanibel inaccessible from the mainland. President Joe Biden feared it could be the deadliest hurricane in Florida history, a possibility DeSantis disputed. The state raised $10 million in two days of donations to the Florida Disaster Fund. While the immediate recovery is expected to take weeks, the long-term recovery could take months, years and even decades with state officials just starting to assess the devastation.

Biden declares major disaster, opens federal purse — The President declared a major disaster over Hurricane Ian. That opens the door for the federal government to take on 100% of the cost of debris removal and emergency protective measures, including public assistance and direct federal assistance for 30 days. While it’s not the 60-day order DeSantis had asked for, Biden and DeSantis appear to be working together effectively despite two years of being at political odds. The order will also allow individuals in nine impacted counties to receive federal funding for temporary housing, home repairs and low-interest loans for property losses. As DeSantis predicted, Biden later added four Central Florida counties to the declaration with more expected to come.

Quarter of Floridians impacted by outages — Nearly one quarter of Florida customers were without power at the peak of outages caused by Hurricane Ian. As of noon Friday, that number had fallen to 16%. Only 61 customers have power in Hardee County. Meanwhile, more than four-fifths of customers in Charlotte and Lee counties are without power. Friday marks the first full day of restoration work. More than 21,000 workers, with help from linemen from 30 states, will work at all hours to restore power.

Insurance market, DeSantis record under scrutiny — While a gentleman’s political truce is on as Florida responds to Hurricane Ian, it hasn’t stopped politicians and industry experts from sounding the alarm — yet again — on Florida’s fragile property insurance market. News that a sixth insurance company would be leaving the state broke Monday, as Floridians were ramping up preparations and evacuations ahead of Ian’s landfall. While lawmakers presented DeSantis with their insurance package cobbled together in the legislative off-season, some wonder whether it will be enough and whether DeSantis and Republicans should have acted sooner. Other parts of DeSantis’ record are also resurfacing, like his 2016 vote against Hurricane Sally aid as a member of Congress.

Medicaid providers sue AHCA over minimum wage hike — Three health care organizations and a Largo-based provider sued Florida on Tuesday, arguing that lawmakers illegally opened them up to class-action lawsuits if they fail to pay employees at least $15 an hour as required in the new state budget. The lawsuit, filed in circuit court in Leon County, asks a judge to issue a temporary injunction and block the enforcement provision from taking effect. The minimum wage hit $11 an hour on Friday, but minimum wages for state employees — and Medicaid providers — will jump to $15 an hour in January. The budget language allows employees to file class-action lawsuits.


The post Takeaways from Tallahassee — Gassed up for October appeared first on Florida Politics – Campaigns & Elections. Lobbying & Government..

FloridaPolitics, excerpt posted on  SouthFloridaReporter.com

Republished with permission 

This article originally appeared here and was republished with permission.

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