Florida Lawmakers Hatch a Plan to Cut Costs at the Pump

Over the last week, gas prices in Florida have surged an average of 25-cents a gallon, Making it unaffordable for many to simply get around town. Lawmakers have a controversial plan to cut the price at the pump.

Charles Brann feels like he's feeling the crises overseas here, in his wallet and at the pump.

“Ten dollars nowadays only gets you, like, two gallons of gas, and if you're trying to get to work, you feel like the low-grade person can't even get to work, 'cause all the rich people can still get there,” he said.

…Not that everyone doesn't want a better deal at the pump, including lawmakers. Under a brand-new bill, gas could be sold at below cost, allowing stations to compete in offering rock-bottom prices.

The early estimate: it could knock around 7-cents off every gallon.

Supporters say gas won't be the only thing value-loving drivers will fill up with. They'll also leave armed with bear claws, pork rinds and soda pop, and that could help stations make up for the hit they'd take at the pump.

But there's no guarantee that would happen, and then there are the independent and small chain stations like Melissia Hommel's. She'd lose money if competition drove prices too low.

“I can see it's going to,” she said. “Bigger chains will hurt the smaller ones, the independents, you know, they don't have the luxury of having to pay all that for their gas.”

And with a gallon here at $3.20... make that $3.39 a gallon, customers like Charles aren't even sure below-cost gas would really matter.

“When they go eight or nine cents a gallon, it's going to be like, well, it was four dollars so we'll knock nine cents off, and you still ain't saving nothing.”

...Maybe not anything big, but the promise of even a few pennies on the gallon has become enough to fuel the debate.

The Florida Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association says the legislation would drive many independent stations into bankruptcy and pledge to defeat the bill in the upcoming session.

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