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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signs bill to reduce toll costs

By Sarah May
|
December 16, 2022

In a move sure to please conservatives across the Sunshine State, Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday put his signature on a toll-relief law designed to dramatically reduce the amounts paid by vehicular commuters, as the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports.

As a result of the legislation, the average savings for Florida commuters over the course of the year in which the relief will apply could approach $550, estimates suggest.

DeSantis signs toll relief bill

According to a press release issued by the governor's office, the Toll Relief Program, to be facilitated by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), will deliver account credits for commuters amounting to 50% of their normally assessed fees.

The relief will provide savings to roughly 1.2 million motorists who engage in at least 35 toll transactions monthly on tollways included in the plan.

As the Tampa Bay Times noted, the state has earmarked $500 million for toll relief and has committed to reimbursing local governments that might otherwise suffer lost revenue under the scheme.

Other eligibility requirements for commuters are that they have a SunPass or another type of transponder account, their vehicle must be of the two-axle variety, and their accounts must be kept in good standing.

The new legislation represents an expansion of a prior relief program known as SunPass Savings, which provided savings primarily along the Florida Turnpike, whereas the new plan includes all state toll roads.

Promise kept

Commenting on the bill signing, DeSantis declared, “I promised Floridians that I would find additional ways to provide toll relief for Florida families. With this legislation, we are keeping that promise to help hardworking families keep more money in their pockets. I applaud the Florida Legislature for prioritizing this during the special session.”

DeSantis' enthusiasm about the plan was echoed by Lieutenant Gov. Jeanette Nunez, who said, “This is an essential move forward in giving commuters much-needed relief and I comment Governor DeSantis, FDOT, and the Florida Legislature for continuing to prioritize Florida families.”

Sen. Nick DiCeglie added, “For many Floridians, tolls are an unavoidable cost of commuting to work five or six days a week. This bill is a commonsense solution that provides relief at a time when Floridans need it the most.”

According to DeSantis and House Speaker Paul Renner, the goal of the legislation is to make everyday life more cost-effective for Floridians, and they further suggested that additional relief plans may be on the horizon, declaring that they are “just getting started,” the Times reported.

Eye to the future?

With voter-friendly programs such as the toll relief program taking effect and in the wake of his landslide re-election victory in November, it is no surprise that DeSantis' national profile as a possible contender for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination continues to grow.

According to Fox News, just last weekend, the governor and his wife were slated to meet with top donors to toast his impressive electoral win, but also to discuss what opportunities may lie ahead in terms of a White House bid.

A source with knowledge of the governor's political circle discussed DeSantis' current engagement with donors, saying, “Over the next few months, I think that courtship will become clearer, and the question then becomes what's the timeline and what's his path forward look like. I think that's the question on donors' minds as much as it is on everybody else's minds.”

Further fanning the flames of speculation that DeSantis may be eyeing a 2024 campaign after all is the fact that in February, the governor will reportedly release a book detailing his career in public service entitled, The Courage to Be Free: Florida's Blueprint for America's Revival, a step many characterize as a bold signal of his desire to pursue higher office, perhaps sooner rather than later.

Wild card remains

Though former President Donald Trump has already tossed his hat in the ring for 2024, recent polling has suggested that the Florida governor has pulled ahead in hypothetical matchups between the two – a development not lost on numerous political pundits and commentators.

That media trend presented itself forcefully on Thursday when Trump received widespread criticism and mockery over his release of a series of digital trading cards depicting him in superhero garb, a move which followed hyperbolic buildup from the former president indicating that a “major announcement” was afoot.

The incident was used by some, including former Trump aide Alyssa Farah Griffin, to highlight what she viewed as the key differences between one potential candidate who spent the day trying to hawk expensive, cartoonish renderings of himself and one who was enacting real-world economic relief for his constituents. “The juxtaposition is *chefs kiss, *” tweeted Farah.