TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami) – One of the best perks about owning a Sunpass is the discount you get when you let the state take tolls directly from your bank account. That benefit may be history, as action in the Florida Senate Thursday took that discount one step closer to extinction.
The Senate voted 28-11 Thursday in favor of a bill that would eliminate the discount on state-operated toll roads like the Florida Turnpike. Supporters of ending the tolls say it could generate $100 million for state highway projects, an amount that could be multiplied if it is used to back transportation project bonds.
J.D. Alexander, the Senate budget chief, claimed the discount was needed when Sunpass was new to convince people to support the program. Now, he said, special Sunpass lanes and the elimination of toll booths in places like South Florida have made the discount unnecessary.
Some Republicans argued against the bill, claiming it went back on a promise to taxpayers not to raise fees, but the argument failed to gain support.
The plan passed as part of a bill that allows the state’s Turnpike Enterprise to absorb three authorities: the Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority, the Tampa-Hillsborough County Expressway Authority and the Mid-Bay Bridge Authority in Okaloosa County.
SunPass is an electronic toll-paying system and users typically pay 25 cents less than drivers who pay cash on Florida’s Turnpike and other state toll roads.
A Sunpass discount is also given to drivers who use it on the toll roads operated by the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority, which is not covered under the Senate bill. It’s not known what effect the discontinuation of the discount on state toll roads would have on the MDX discount program.
The Senate plan must still be approved by the Florida House and signed by Governor Scott before the discount disappears.