With embrace of gas tax hiatus, DeSantis shows he gets it in a way Biden doesn't

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  • Joe Biden
    Joe Biden
    46th and current president of the United States
  • Ron DeSantis
    Ron DeSantis
    American politician
Gov. Ron DeSantis announces a proposal to waive the state's 26.5-cent per gallon gasoline tax on Monday, Nov. 22, 2021, at Buc-ee's gas station in Daytona Beach.
Gov. Ron DeSantis announces a proposal to waive the state's 26.5-cent per gallon gasoline tax on Monday, Nov. 22, 2021, at Buc-ee's gas station in Daytona Beach.

At his first formal news conference in March, President Joe Biden made a keen observation about politics.

"It’s a matter of timing," Biden said. "... the successful presidents better than me have been successful in large part because they know how to time what they’re doing. Order it. Decide priorities. What needs to be done.”

That's a quality Gov. Ron DeSantis possesses. It was on full display Monday when the self-described "connoisseur" of gas stations stood behind a podium labeled "Lower Gas Prices" at Buc-ee's in Daytona Beach .

As prices were hovering around $3.35 per gallon at many stations around the Daytona Beach area, DeSantis made announced his proposal to put a hiatus on collecting Florida's 26.5-cent per gallon gas tax.

That plan will await the Legislative Session in January. It appears already to have bipartisan support, with the details — such as how long the pause should last, and how to ensure the oil and gas companies pass on the cost savings to consumers — yet to come.

DeSantis estimated that over five or six months, the average family could save as much as $200, with the total amount of gas taxes not collected topping $1 billion.

It should be noted that DeSantis' announcement followed calls last week by Democratic gubernatorial candidates Charlie Crist and Nikki Fried to halt collection of gas taxes, or at least the automatic increase scheduled for Jan. 1.

A sign in front of the Wawa gas station on Dunlawton Avenue in Port Orange shows the price of regular gasoline at $3.359 a gallon on Monday morning, Nov. 22, 2021.
A sign in front of the Wawa gas station on Dunlawton Avenue in Port Orange shows the price of regular gasoline at $3.359 a gallon on Monday morning, Nov. 22, 2021.

Crist called for a gas tax holiday starting right away through the end of 2021. Fried's claims that DeSantis was raising the gas tax when the calendar hits the new year were misleading at best.

By law, Florida ties its gas tax to the consumer price index, so if the CPI goes up in 2021, the gas tax automatically is increased to keep pace. Florida's tax, 26.5 cents, is slated to rise to 27.3 cents per gallon.

It remains to be seen whether Florida lawmakers will address that question, but we would suggest tying the gas tax to the CPI is good policy. The federal gas tax, which isn't tied to CPI and Congress — always more concerned with reelection than being tagged with a tax increase — hasn't been touched in 28 years. So while it has failed to keep pace with the cost of things, the government has struggled to keep pace with infrastructure needs.

On the other hand, Florida is operating with a surplus, while the federal Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act opposed by the vast majority of House Republicans including our own Rep. Michael Waltz, is projected to deliver the state $13.1 billion in federal highway appropriations, $245 million for bridge replacement and $2.6 billion for public transportation over the next five years.

So, as a result of both Republican state fiscal policies and Biden's signature first-year domestic achievement, DeSantis was in a position to embrace a policy that will undoubtedly be popular with motorists from DeBary to Dubuque.

As he posed for selfies with Buc-ee's customers, DeSantis demonstrated a political deftness that promises to serve him well in 2022, not to mention 2024.

Whether Biden runs again in 2024 or not, his popularity has taken hits with the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan and the inflation crisis he underestimated months ago.

Even with the landmark infrastructure act, Biden's messaging has failed to connect with voters on pocketbook issues such as gas prices and inflation.

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This article originally appeared on The Daytona Beach News-Journal: Gov. Ron DeSantis' call to halt gas tax collection shows he's in touch

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