The Senate has given the green light to a proposal from Gov. Ron DeSantis to establish a 50% toll credit for frequent commuters in 2023.
Senators voted unanimously Tuesday to pass legislation (SB 6A) creating a toll relief program for drivers that notch 35 transactions a month on their SunPass transponders. Indian Rocks Beach Sen. Nick DiCeglie, a freshman Republican, sponsored the bill through the Senate.
The House Appropriations Committee also considered the House’s identical version of the proposed legislation (HB 5A), sponsored by Coral Gables Republican Rep. Demi Busatta Cabrera. The House is expected to pass the measure Wednesday morning.
The proposal authorizes the Florida Turnpike Enterprise to establish the program throughout 2023 for all Florida toll facilities that use a Florida-issued transponder or are interoperable with the Department of Transportation’s (FDOT) SunPass system. It also gives FDOT $500 million to pay for the credits.
Each month a transponder racks up 35 or more transactions, the transponder will receive 50% toll credit. Transactions incurred by two-axle vehicles are eligible.
DeSantis and lawmakers frame the measure as a way to provide Floridians relief from high inflation while the state operates on a massive budget surplus.
“Considering that we all — all of us in this chamber, all of us in the state of Florida — (are) dealing with increased prices, whether it’s at the grocery store, the gas station, I think anytime that we can give the taxpayer, any Floridian, relief to get more money, keep more money in their pocket, I think it’s good public policy. And this bill does exactly that,” DiCeglie said.
There are no residency requirements for SunPass, meaning the discounts will also apply to snowbirds so long as they meet the minimum number of trips.
Lantana Democratic Sen. Lori Berman voted for the bill but expressed concerns that the state was spending $500 million for an unknown but committed pool of commuters, which she estimated was 500,000 drivers large.
“I wish we had also looked at the idea of just lowering tolls throughout the state for the benefit of everyone,” Berman said Tuesday.
In moving the bill during the Special Session on property insurance, the Legislature has agreed to fast-track a proposal DeSantis initially said would be a priority for the 2023 Regular Session.
It also builds off a six-month program DeSantis authorized in August called “SunPass Savings.” Under the plan, from September 2022 through February 2023, customers with two-axle vehicles receive a 20% credit to their SunPass account if they incurred at least 40 paid toll transactions in a month, or a 25% credit to their SunPass account if they incurred at least 80 paid toll transactions.
Florida toll facilities included in the SunPass Savings program, according to a staff analysis of the Legislature’s bills, include the Turnpike Mainline (SR 91/SR 821), Sawgrass Expressway (SR 869), Alligator Alley, Polk Parkway (SR 570), Sunshine Skyway Bridge, Interstate 4 connector, Veterans Expressway (SR 589), Suncoast Parkway (SR 589), Beachline East (SR 528) MP 0-8, Beachline West (SR 528) MP 31-46, Western Beltway (SR 429) MP 0-11, Southern Connector Extension (SR 417) MP 0-3, Seminole Expressway (SR 417) MP 38-55 A/B, Wekiva Parkway (SR 429) Mount Plymouth Rd to SR 46, First Coast Expressway (SR 23), Garcon Point Bridge, Pinellas Bayway and express lanes.
Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics contributed to this report.