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    Florida Gas Tax Break Begins

    Attorney general taking steps to enforce 8-cent decrease.

    GAINESVILLE. Fla. -- A month-long gasoline tax break approved by Florida lawmakers this spring began yesterday, according to Gainesville.com.

    The tax cut will knock 8 cents from the state's 14.3-cents-per-gallon gasoline tax for all of August. It does not apply to diesel or other fuels.

    Under the law, suppliers are expected to pass the break on to wholesalers, who in turn will pass it to retailers, and retailers to consumers. Attorney General Charlie Crist has authority to prosecute violators, who would face a third-degree felony punishable by as much as $5,000 in fines and as many as five years in prison for failing to adhere to the law.

    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. Crist also asked consumers to report suspected violations online at myfloridalegal.com.

    Florida gas prices rose from just about $1.50 per gallon for self-serve regular unleaded gasoline in late 2003 to a peak of more than $2 per gallon in June. Florida's average price for a gallon of regular gas is $1.927, just less than 3 cents more than the national average of $1.899, according to AAA's Daily Fuel Gauge report.

    Statewide, consumers, including government and mass transit agencies that use gasoline, should save about $60 million from today through midnight Aug. 31 as a result of the break, according to the state Department of Revenue.

    Jim Smith, president of the Florida Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association, said the tax cut could reduce retailers' profits early in the month.

    Because Florida collects its gas tax from terminal suppliers, Smith said some gas station owners who have already purchased large supplies may refuse to drop their prices, at least until they've exhausted their current reserves. "However, the public expectation is that the price is going to be 8 cents cheaper Sunday than it was on Saturday," Smith said. "And that's why we're saying everyone should put a little salt and pepper on it and eat it."

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