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Clever Ron DeSantis Timed Gas Tax 'Holiday' To End Week Before Midterms. Damn You Biden!
Nobody'd be dumb enough to fall for ... Oh, of course they would.
Voters in Florida might be grumbling about sudden increases in the price of gasoline, just before the midterm election. You see, a one-month "tax holiday" on the state's 25.3-cent per gallon gas tax ended Monday, causing prices to shoot up at the pump. Folks who knew the holiday was ending hurried to fill up their tanks at the lower prices Sunday and Monday, and those who hadn't been paying attention may have reacted to the new higher prices by cursing that bastard Joe Biden, although the end of the tax holiday, and the corresponding price increase, had been planned back in May. Wasn't that clever of Ron DeSantis and the Republicans in the state Legislature?
This all got rolling months ago, when gas prices were high and Republicans were calling for Joe Biden to suffer consequences for twisting the little "Make gas prices go up" knob on his desk all the way to eleven. That's when Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a package of "tax holiday" legislation to beat inflation by eliminating about a billion dollars of revenue for the state. The bill cut sales taxes on stuff like school supplies and children's books and appliances and what the hell, mobile homes and tickets to the Daytona 500, too. The lost tax revenue was made up with part of the $10 billion that Florida received from the American Rescue Plan.
That way, DeSantis could accuse Biden of making inflation spike with all the wasteful spending in the COVID relief plan, while using funds from the plan to cover the lost revenue from his "tax relief" stunt. What a smart fellow! He sure felt smart!
Part of the plan was a one-month suspension of the gas tax — and unlike the other tax freezes, which mostly kicked in in July, the gas tax holiday was planned for the entire month of October, so it could end a week before the election. The gas tax "holiday" is also being paid for with $200 million in stimulus funds that were designated for road projects, which is where the gas tax money would have gone anyway. God damn Joe Biden and his inflation!
We honestly look forward to the day when everyone's zipping around in a socialist nerd EV and gas prices will no longer be the dumbest political issue ever.
Now, by the time the gas tax holiday went into effect October 1, gas prices had already been falling since June 14, when the national average hit a record $5.02 per gallon, although in September, that streak ended with an uptick of a penny per gallon. Still, the gas tax reduction was indeed reflected in Florida pump prices for the first week of October, when they dropped from an average of $3.39 down to $3.17. But then on October 6 the Saudis and Russians announced plans to sharply reduce oil production , and suddenly instead of thanking Ron DeSantis for gas prices going down, Floridians were paying $3.41 per gallon by October 14.
Oil prices started dropping a bit, with gas prices following, after Biden said he would release oil from the US strategic oil reserves to offset effects of the production cuts. By Monday, the Florida average price was down to $3.29 a gallon, compared to a national average of $3.76. And then the gas tax holiday ended so prices could go up again.
The Palm Beach Post attempted to determine whether the gas tax holiday had really saved Floridians that much money during the month of October, and came to the conclusion that yes, it had — twentysomething cents less per gallon was a cushion against the higher prices following the OPEC+ announcement — but with all the price fluctuations during the month, a lot of consumers might not have noticed that much, apart from the folks who hurried to fill up before the tax break ended. The paper also notes that, as the tax holiday ends, AAA reports that statewide gas prices were once again falling, so that will take some of the bite out of the higher tax. On the whole, AAA "calculated the average price for gasoline in Florida for the month of October at $3.33 per gallon, which is about 6 cents less than the price on Sept. 30."
To complicate matters, the Palm Beach Post also points out that whether consumers saw a drop in prices — and when — depended on when any particular gas station bought its gas. It's illegal under state law for stations not to pass on the tax savings to consumers, but that depended on when the retailer bought its own supplies of gas:
“Gas stations that do not purchase tax-reduced gas from their suppliers would not be required to pass on a tax reduction to their customers during the Gas Tax Holiday,” the attorney general’s website stated. Gas stations are also not required to sell gas at a certain price, nor are they considered price gouging if their prices don’t go down.
The same applies in reverse, so the end of the tax holiday doesn't necessarily mean every gas station in Florida immediately raised prices, either:
If a gas station bought its supply before the tax holiday went into effect, it would continue to sell that gas with the tax until it runs out, said Ned Bowman, executive director of the Florida Petroleum Marketers Association. And if gas stations still have tax-reduced inventory after Nov. 1, the gas should be sold without the tax until it’s gone.
Also too, Deanne Butchey, a Finance professor at Florida International University, told the Post that for the lowest-income consumers, the gas tax break may not have made a great difference :
“One does not usually fill up one’s tank multiple times over a short period of time. So the financial impact on the consumer is negligible, even though it may be a good ploy politically,” she said.
The bottom 95% of families will benefit from less than half of the tax break, an analysis from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy suggested, with low-income drivers not able to time the purchase of their gas like other drivers might.
“They’re just a really inefficient way to use public funds, especially if you’re trying to improve the lives of folks who are being hit hardest by things like temporary gas increases or the cost of inflation rising,” said ITEP state policy analyst Marco Guzman, adding that other solutions like earned income tax credits or rebates could be more beneficial.
Aw, but that's OK, really, because Ron DeSantis wasn't all that interested in helping people who are just getting by anyway. He wanted to be able to say he was taking a bold stance against Joe Biden's inflation, and all he had to do was fund it with money from Joe Biden's American Rescue Plan. Talk about a win-win!
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