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COLUMN: Proposed legislation would assist active military, veterans in New York

— Our state government can make a big difference just by doing little things for active duty military and veterans. We should use our resources to further their careers and express our appreciation for their years of service and sacrifice. One way to accomplish this is through changing our state policies and laws, to publicly show our appreciation. I sponsor legislation that will assist our active military and reservists, as well as honor our veterans. These measures were recently introduced to the Assembly. One bill will help with tuition assistance, in light of federal sequester cuts. Another bill will exempt active military from paying sales and use tax on vehicles upon returning to New York. Two other bills will create state medals of service for those who served in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Many of you, I’m sure, heard about the sequester. This was the federal law that became effective last month, which made across the board spending cuts on portions of total federal spending. One of the many programs affected by the sequester was tuition assistance for active duty military and reservists. Military enrolled in higher education classes qualify for tuition assistance. This funding was cut with the sequester. Legislation I sponsor would assist New York military enrolled at our SUNY and CUNY facilities. Troops currently enrolled in college classes and pursuing degrees will not have the funds promised to complete their program due to cuts made by the Federal Department of Defense.

The bill I propose would provide a tuition reduction, equivalent to the tuition assistance they were promised from the Department of Defense. This would continue until the military reinstates the tuition assistance or the student graduates. The average tuition assistance granted by the federal government for active military in New York was $1,855 in 2012. The least we can do for our military who sacrifice so much and often return with physical and emotional scars is to fulfill a small promise of tuition assistance. Since our bill’s announcement last week, lawmakers in other states, such as Arizona, plan to introduce similar tuition assistance laws for active military and reservists.

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