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Florida most veteran-friendly state, new report shows

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Florida is the most veteran-friendly state in the U.S., offering some of the most generous tax benefits for former and current service members, according to a new report by independent government watchdogs Florida TaxWatch.

To coincide with Veterans Day, TaxWatch released the study about the 1.6 million veterans living in the Sunshine State, a number which translates to one out of every 12 adult Floridians. More World War II vets live in Florida than any other state, the report says, and nearly half of all veterans in the state are over 65 years of age.

TaxWatch outlines how Florida lawmakers actively promoted policies to support veterans, including passage of the Florida “G.I. Bill” in 2014. The goal of the bill was to make Florida the most “veteran friendly” state in the nation, creating Florida Is For Veterans, Inc., an agency with a mission to promote Florida to retired and recently separated military service members.

“Florida is proud of the brave servicemen and women who have chosen to build their lives and raise their families in the Sunshine State,” said TaxWatch President and CEO Dominic Calabro in a statement. “Our Legislature and Governor have recognized the importance of giving back to those who have sacrificed for us, and their commitment has resulted in Florida becoming the most veteran-friendly state in America.”

Among state-based veteran benefits include property tax exemptions for disabled veterans, offering up to $5000, as well as a total homestead exemption for service-connected disabilities for those veterans using wheelchairs. Elderly disabled veterans are also eligible for homestead property tax discounts, based on the extent of their disability.

Other perks include waving professional license fees for veterans honorably discharged within 60 months of applying, waiving sales tax on motor vehicle purchases and allowing the Florida Department of Highway Safety and motor vehicles to use military identification cards as proof of Social Security numbers.

Nonresident active-duty military service members stationed in Florida do not have to provide a state driver’s license to enroll their children in a Florida public school.

In 2015, the Florida Legislature also revised the C.W. “Bill” Young Veteran Tuition Waiver, which eliminates out-of-state tuition fees for honorably discharged veterans attending state colleges, universities, technical and other career centers. The waiver also covers spouses and children eligible under the sponsors G.I. Bill benefits.

Government agencies in Florida are also required to grant employment preference in both hiring and retaining veterans, as well as spouses, parents and legal guardians – including National Guard members United States reserve forces. The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity also provides several services for recruitment, training and links to federal programs to employers that hire veterans and spouses.

TaxWatch says Florida is “justifiably proud of our veterans,” adding that these benefits are “just a small token” of appreciation for their service.

“Florida TaxWatch is pleased to honor and thank Florida veterans for their service,” Calabro added.

The full report is available here.

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Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.

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