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UPDATE: SunPass users to keep their discount

Friday, April 8th, 2011 by Dara Kam

SunPass users can breathe a sigh of relief. Senate President Mike Haridopolos said lawmakers won’t take away the discounts on toll roads, reversing what the Senate did yesterday.

“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.

Senate does away with SunPass discount

Thursday, April 7th, 2011 by Dara Kam

Motorists could say bye-bye to the 25 cent savings they typically get when use the SunPass card to speed through Florida toll exchanges.

The Senate approved a bill (SB 2152) merging the state’s turnpike authorities that includes an end to the 5% SunPass discount over the objections of several Republicans.

“We should not raise the fees. Keep our word,” argued Sen. Jim Norman, R-Tampa, who tried to amend the bill to take out the elimination of the discount.

Senate budget chief J.D. Alexander argued that the discount began when SunPass was created to ease back-ups at toll booths. Since then, SunPass users enjoy special lanes they can zip through without even slowing down, Alexander said.

Doing away with the discount would add $100 million to the state’s transportation budget, which translates into $1 billion worth of projects if bonded.

“For me I think that’s worthwhile doing,” Alexander, R-Lake Wales, said.

Norman’s amendment died on a voice vote, and the bill passed by a 28-11 vote.

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