Data shows the Florida gas tax holiday didn’t deliver, but prices are still rising anyway

ORLANDO, Fla. — Most of the Florida gas tax holiday savings were pocketed by fuel companies instead of being passed on to consumers, data showed, but gas stations are still raising their prices anyway now that the “holiday” is over.


Throughout October, WFTV chronicled how drivers got the biggest discount over a two-day period in the first week of October, at times saving 17 of the 25 cents in taxes that Florida politicians suspended for the month.

However, GasBuddy and AAA trackers showed fuel companies used OPEC’s announcement of production cuts on Oct. 5 as an excuse to raise Florida’s gas prices more than its neighbors, setting gas prices almost back to where they would have been had the holiday not taken effect.

For most of the month, drivers received no more than 8 cents per gallon in savings, data showed. While it typically takes three or four days for a full price adjustment to settle in, Orlando-area gas station prices jumped by an average of 3 cents overnight on Nov. 1, GasBuddy said, starkly reversing a 14-day downtrend.

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“When the state removes the tax, it’s the business the person that’s selling you gasoline that no longer has to incorporate that in what they sell to you,” Richard Auxier, with the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, explained. “Nothing prevents them from moving the price of gasoline up or down without that tax in it.”

Auxier was one of the analysts whose predictions proved to be true. He said gas prices are a frustrating issue for politicians, who know the issue is influential for voters but have few ways to address it.

Instead, gas prices are set on a global level and influenced by wars, shipping constraints and production cuts like the one Middle Eastern countries and Russia announced last month. The United States can do little to fight back, aside from throwing its influence around. Oil industry analysts note that while America is a major oil producer, much of the product that flows from its fields is too light and “sweet” to be sent to domestic refineries and must be exported.

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Because of this, tax researchers consider fuel tax holidays to be a bit like a shiny object: easy to announce to voters and implement, but more of a distraction than effective policy.

Instead, they encourage legislators to look to tax rebates targeted at low- and middle-income Floridians as a better way to help them deal with inflation.

“There are myriad [numbers of] tools at policymakers’ disposal, but whatever requires them to think a little bit, not even outside the box. But just to get outside of this laser-like [focus] on this one issue,” Auxier said. “But, it’s going to take some work.”

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Auxier said Florida is hurting itself in this department because of its lack of income tax, which he described as less of a way to take people’s money and more of a tool a government uses to redistribute citizens’ wealth. States with income taxes have greater flexibility to create easy-to-implement programs to bring voters relief, like tax cuts, while Florida relies on sales taxes that are also paid by tourists.

That’s where a tax rebate would come in.


“Washington state does not have an income tax, and just enacted an earned income tax credit that’s going to deliver tax savings and tax rebates to lower in middle income working families,” Auxier reported. “Florida can do this.”

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