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Motorists delight over gasoline sales tax break

Some vehicles were running on vapors by Sunday as owners held out for the cut to begin. Other drivers were pleasantly surprised.

By SHANNON TAN
Published August 2, 2004

photo
[Times photo: Erik Jacobs]:
The sign at a Sunoco gas station in Port Richey demonstrates the dramatic change between Saturday's gas prices, left, and Sunday's.

Frank Gallo read about the gas tax break in the paper but was still surprised when he saw the price.

"$1.75 for regular gas!" said Gallo, 47, before filling up his Ford F-150 Sunday at the Rally gas store at 3400 Ulmerton Road in Clearwater.

Yellow stickers on the pumps proclaim the station's participation in the state's gasoline tax cut of 8 cents per gallon from Sunday to Aug. 31.

The decrease in gas taxes will save an estimated $60-million, according to the state Attorney General's Office.

Diesel is not covered by the break, which trims 8 cents of the 24 cents the state levies on a gallon of gas.

"I couldn't be more pleased," said Gallo, a part-time Clearwater resident. "On 20 gallons, that's $1.60. That buys me more tacos."

The average price on Sunday for a gallon of regular gas in Florida was $1.927, according to AAA's Daily Fuel Gauge Report. The national average is $1.899.

Annie Ly, 20, of Clearwater has been paying about $30 every week to fill up her Toyota Avalon. The savings will help ease the back-to-school costs for the University of Florida junior.

"I'm definitely coming back for more gas between now and the 31st," she said, as she pumped gas at the Rally station.

At the Amoco gas station at Fourth Street and 22nd Avenue N in St. Petersburg, where regular gas cost $1.81 a gallon, few customers noted the savings.

"Whenever the gas goes down, nobody says anything about it," said Larry Burgess, customer service representative.

Tampa resident Shelia Hickman, 40, noticed the drop in gas prices. Hickman's 1985 Ford Crown Victoria hovered near empty Saturday. She gave in a little and put $5 worth in the tank. Sunday morning, Hickman headed for Shamie's Amoco Station in Ybor City.

"I'm going to use that extra few dollars to pay the bills," she said.

Any Florida business that sells gasoline faces a third-degree felony charge punishable by up to five years in prison if the company fails to pass along the tax break.

The attorney general's Economic Crimes Division plans to conduct spot checks of the state's 400 gasoline wholesalers to verify that their invoices reflect the decrease. Consumers can report suspected violations at www.myfloridalegal.com or 1-866-966-7226.

-- Times staff writer Abbie VanSickle and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

[Last modified August 2, 2004, 01:00:29]


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