Gov. Rick Scott is making the a $178 million push to help support active military, veterans and their families as part of his 2018-2019 budget.
The governor unveiled his pitch Monday in Riviera Beach as part of his overall recommendations for the state’s annual budget beginning next July.
Part of the budgetary recommendation would include an $8 million package for the state to begin a veteran-centered nursing home in Lake Baldwin with another $2 million going towards helping build and modify homes for vets severely injured while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Another $2.7 million would be funneled into the state budget to help veterans find jobs and start their own businesses.
Scott, a Navy veteran, said his own personal experience and his family’s were part of the reason he was making the push to lend a helping hand to servicemen and women in the Sunshine State.
“My father served during World War II…there is no greater sacrifice to one’s community or country than giving your life to protect others,” Scott said in a statement. “We will never be able to repay our fallen officers or service members who have bravely given their lives, but it is our duty to ensure that their families are supported as if they were our own.
The governor has also said he would support a constitutional amendment offering free tuition to families of first responders, state law enforcement officers and military members whose family members were killed in action.
The proposal would give each family a total of 120 credit hours which could go towards credits at any Florida state college, university or participating technical school. Only one four-year degree would be offered per family.
The concept is currently under consideration by the Florida Constitution Revision Commission — if passed, the proposal would be put on the ballot in 2018. Sixty percent of Florida voters would need to vote in favor for the measure to go into effect.
Scott’s budget proposal gathered the support of law enforcement officials, who said the extra money would be a boon to servicemembers and their families.
“Our most important asset is our people, and their families who support them in their service to our communities,” said President of the Florida Sheriffs Association and Walton County Sheriff Mike Adkinson.
“Securing the future of our families is a noble act, and these death benefits provide educational opportunities for the surviving spouse or children to ensure they are able to provide for their families and contribute to the economy.”
This isn’t the first time the governor has supported legislation to help the families of fallen law enforcement officers and first responders. Last year, Scott signed a bill into law which gives the fallen individual’s monthly salary to the beneficiary for their lifetime.
The announcement comes ahead of what will undoubtedly be a legislative session of extreme bargaining as Florida grapples with a tight budget. Florida was expected to have a slight surplus heading into 2018, but Hurricane Irma threw a wrench into next year’s budget and the state now has to pay out $600 million in expenses related to the storm.
Scott’s office said more details about the plan will be available in the coming weeks.