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Toll reduction fast-tracked through Florida Senate

Smaller fees include First Coast Expressway


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Some drivers could see a 50% credit on tolls in the 2023 calendar year – funded by Florida’s budget surplus – under a priority proposal of Gov. Ron DeSantis that is on a fast highway to the finish line during this week’s Special Session.

The Senate Fiscal Policy Committee on Monday voted unanimously to approve SB 6A, which authorizes the Florida Turnpike Enterprise to establish a toll relief program for drivers that notch 35 transactions a month on their SunPass transponders.

The plan includes the First Coast Expressway in Clay County.

The bill cleared through the committee, while the House Appropriations Committee will consider its version of the proposal bill in committee on Tuesday.

Senate Fiscal Policy Committee member Sen. Lori Berman voted for the bill but asked Sen. Nick DiCegile why the state wasn’t lowering the tolls for everyone given the $500 million general revenue investment needed to make it a reality.

“Thirty-five transactions a month, those are typical folks who drive five or six times a week. Those are typically our hardworking Floridians,” he said, explaining the policy.

Berman said she had “concerns” that the policy picked “winners and losers.” Someone who required dialysis three times a month, she said, wouldn’t qualify for the benefit even though they are using the same roads.

Berman said the proposal should “benefit a broader class.”

The proposal authorizes the Florida Turnpike Enterprise to establish the program effective from Jan. 1 through Dec. 31, 2023, for all Florida toll facilities that use a Florida-issued transponder or are interoperable with the Florida Department of Transportation’s SunPass system.

The discounts are for transponders that rack up 35 or more transactions per calendar month. The discounts are equal to 50% of the amount paid for the qualifying transactions.

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.

There are no residency requirements for SunPass, which means that the discounts will also apply to snowbirds so long as they meet the minimum number of trips.

In moving the bill during the Special Session on property insurance, the Legislature has agreed to fast-track a proposal that DeSantis initially said would be a priority for the 2023 Regular Session.

It also builds off a proposal DeSantis announced last August called “SunPass Savings.” Under the plan, 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 incur at least 80 paid toll transactions.

Florida toll facilities included in the SunPass Savings program, according to a staff analysis of SB 6A, 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 is a Tallahassee-based health care reporter who focuses on health care policy and the politics behind it. Medicaid, health insurance, workers’ compensation, and business and professional regulation are just a few of the things that keep me busy.