Frequent Florida drivers are set for a 50% reduction in tolls next year after a green light from Gov. Ron DeSantis.
The Republican Governor signed legislation (SB 6A) Thursday that authorizes the Florida Turnpike Enterprise (FTE) to set up the toll relief program for drivers that notch 35 transactions within a month on their SunPass or other transponders.
DeSantis had asked lawmakers to visit a toll relief program after he announced a smaller-scale, six-month “SunPass Savings” program in August. However, the Legislature delivered early, passing the bill Wednesday as part of its Special Session this week.
“With the tolls, I said, look, why would we wait until the Regular Session, and then you end up having a go into effect in July, when they need the relief now, so let’s do it for this whole calendar year starting January 1,” DeSantis said, speaking in Fort Lauderdale.
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. House Speaker Paul Renner said Florida faces an affordability crisis created by the federal government.
“Today is only the first of many instances in which we’re going to bring relief to working men and women who don’t have the luxury of sitting at home and Zooming in to work every day,” Renner said. “They have to get in the car and go to work to make this economy work and to help keep Florida the great state that it is.”
Lawmakers gave the Department of Transportation $500 million to pay for the operation. Some frequent commuters may receive between $1,000 to $1,500 this year, DeSantis said.
“When your surplus gets too big, it’s like, OK, we need to get this back to the taxpayer,” DeSantis said. “This is one thing we’re going to do, but we’re going to do much more in terms of tax relief for people throughout the state of Florida.”
While Democrats vocally hoped for a relief program that supported all Floridians, not just frequent drivers, the bill received unanimous support in the Legislature.
“We got both Republicans and the Democrats — not very many Democrats up in Tallahassee anymore, but you know, we’re happy to have their support on this,” the Governor added.
Republican Party of Florida Chair of Chairs Evan Power said, “While Americans are suffering from inflation under the Joe Biden’s leadership, Governor DeSantis and the Florida Legislature have once again provided relief for Florida’s families. This estimated $40 million in savings will provide needed help for workers who have been impacted by higher costs on all fronts.”
As passed, the bill authorizes the FTE to establish the program effective throughout 2023 for all Florida toll facilities that use a Florida-issued transponder or are interoperable with the SunPass system. There are no residency requirements for SunPass, meaning the discounts can also apply to snowbirds so long as they meet the minimum number of trips.
Each month, drivers will generate 50% toll credit if their transponders rack up 35 or more transactions that month.
A “qualifying transaction” is a paid transponder-based toll transaction incurred by a two-axle vehicle for travel on a Florida toll facility using a Florida-issued transponder linked to a qualifying account. The account credit must be posted to the qualifying account the month after the credit is earned.
Florida toll facilities included in the SunPass Savings program, according to a staff analysis of the bill, 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.
Freshman Indian Rocks Beach Republican Sen. Nick DiCeglie and Coral Gables Republican Rep. Demi Busatta Cabrera sponsored the legislation.
Under the legislation’s predecessor, “SunPass Savings,” 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.
Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics contributed to this report.