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    Disabled vets may get tax break

    At a dedication ceremony for a World War II exhibit, the governor says he wants to give Florida's disabled veterans a $5,000 property tax exemption.

    By JULIE HAUSERMAN
    © St. Petersburg Times,
    published December 8, 2001


    TALLAHASSEE -- On the 60th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Gov. Jeb Bush said Friday that he'll push for a tax break next year to benefit disabled veterans in Florida.

    Now, disabled veterans get a $500 property tax exemption -- an amount that hasn't changed since 1933, Bush said.

    The governor is endorsing a bill that would increase the exemption for disabled veterans to $5,000. The $5,000 exemption would be on top of Florida's regular $25,000 homestead exemption, said Sen. Locke Burt, R-Ormond Beach, who is co-sponsoring the bill.

    Some 60,000 disabled veterans live in Florida, Bush said.

    Bush made his remarks at a ceremony dedicating a new World War II exhibit at the Museum of Florida History in Tallahassee. Bush said his "favorite World War II veteran" is his father, former President George Bush.

    "My dad was shot down in the Pacific, in shark-infested waters," Gov. Bush said. "He was on his raft. His two crew members had died. He was 19 years old. He was probably pretty scared, and a submarine picked him up."

    He praised the assembled veterans for their "sense of spirit, love of country and duty-bound nature of an entire generation."

    The museum will host the World War II exhibit through July 7, 2002. Also planned is a World War II monument outside the museum, which will be built in the next several years.

    State lawmakers put money into the budget in 1999 and 2000 to pay for a World War II monument, but Bush vetoed the money.

    "I vetoed it because there was no plan," he said Friday. "Now that we have a focused project, maybe state money would be appropriate, matched with private-sector support."

    So far, veterans groups have raised $150,000 for the effort, said Sen. Richard Mitchell, D-Jasper, who sponsored the bill to create a World War II monument.

    Some 248,000 Floridians served in World War II. Today, more than 600,000 World War II veterans claim residence in Florida, according to the governor's office.

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