UPDATE: SunPass users to keep their discountby Dara Kam | April 8th, 2011
“The discount stays. Period,” Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, told reporters during his weekly Q-and-A this morning.
The Senate had scrapped the SunPass discounts, which vary on different toll roads, as part of its plan to merge some of the state’s turnpike authorities.
Sen. Jim Norman, R-Tampa, tried to amend the bill to keep the discounts intact but Haridopolos ruled on a voice vote that Norman’s amendment lacked the two-thirds majority to pass.
Critics said that doing away with the discounts could be considered a tax increase, a potential no-no for conservative Republicans, including U.S. Senate candidates like Haridopolos.
“That is something where there is a legitimate debate going on. Is that a discount or not? How will that be described?” Haridopolos.
Haridopolos said he told Senate budget chief J.D. Alexander, who backed the proposal because it would add back about $100 million to the transportation budget that could be bonded to create up to $1 billion in road projects, it’s off the table.
Haridopolos changed his mind within 12 hours of the vote yesterday after talking with other senators and “after taking my opinion,” he said.
“As I got more engaged I thought the discount’s a good idea. I think it encourages people to purchase the pass, to use the pass and that helps with traffic flow across the state,” Haridopolos said.
Haridopolos said the debate could make SunPass buyers more aware that they get the discount and the ability to fly through toll plazas.
“I’ve let it be known that we will not be adjusting those. The discounts will stay in place. We think that especially as you commute across the state of Florida the best thing to do is to keep those discounts in place,” he said.