A fight over a jet fuel tax could soon roar up this Legislative Session.
State Sen. Joe Gruters, chair of the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee, wants to slash the fuel tax in an effort to attract more airlines to Florida.
“Almost all of the airports in America have no tax or a much smaller tax than we have,” the Sarasota Republican said. “This is about continuing to drive flights into the state.”
The bill (SB 1192) opens up debate on “aviation fuel, refunds for certain air carriers, administration of the tax, disclosure of price, distribution of proceeds, refunds to carriers, commercial air carrier registration and reporting, and a tax exemption for federal entities.”
But more than that, Gruters said Florida needs to be competitive in its tax rates. Talking with airlines, he said, some pilots try to avoid even landing in Florida to refuel.
Fuel tax fights have rocked the Capitol before. In 2016, Florida passed legislation overhauling the fuel tax by changing the treatment of small carriers. The tax on fuel has been changed in a variety of ways. Charges on small carriers have shifted for periods to lure Pan Am to Florida and after airlines suffered declines after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Gruters’ bill does some cleanup like making sure the tax applies to “fuel for use in aircraft, and includes aviation gasoline and aviation turbine fuels and kerosene, as determined by the American Society for Testing and Materials.”
No fiscal scoring has been done to see if that impacts the amount of revenue that will be collected.
But the bill could also provide a vehicle for shifts in the collection and use of the aviation tax in the state budget.
That’s where Gruters expects to spur discussion.
“Florida relies heavily on a tourism economy,” he said. “It’s great when we see new flights pop up in different markets.”