New York Democrats Block Funds for Gold Star Families

By Victor Westerkamp

New York Assembly Democrats barred a bill that proposed expanding college tuition aid for children of perished and disabled military veterans―after having a week earlier approved $27 million from the state’s budget to go toward supporting illegal immigrants to qualify for state aid for higher education, the New York Post reported.

The GOP bill was blocked in the Democratic-controlled Committee on Higher Education, chaired by Deborah Glick (D-Manhattan), in a 15-11 vote on Tuesday, March 9. Glick stated that the state couldn’t spare some hundreds of thousands dollars more after adopting a $175 billion budget. She also pointed to a current law that provides $2.7 million in scholarships to 145 children and dependents of soldiers killed or maimed in combat areas.

But State Sen. Robert Ortt (R-Niagara), and other sponsors of the measure were appalled by the attitude of Glick and the other opposing members of the Committee. “Assemblywoman Glick should be ashamed of herself,” Ortt said. “We set aside $27 million dollars for college for people that are here illegally… Apparently, $2.7 million is all that the families of soldiers who are killed, get. If you’re a child of a fallen soldier, you do not rank as high and you know that by the money.”

Glick, however, brushed aside all criticism: “The bill―though laudable―had a budgetary impact which the committee routinely doesn’t consider post-budget. We did promise to see funding in the future [that] considers potential additional eligible individuals. Cheap shot,” she wrote on Twitter.

The amended bill would have added free tuition, room and board at any SUNY or CUNY college to children, spouses and financial dependents of soldiers who died, became badly maimed or were missing in action while serving in the military, not just in combat areas but on any official duty since 1990.

But now, it seems, Democrats are having second thoughts about holding up the bill.

Assemblyman Stephen Hawley (R-Batavia), who raised the bill, said Democratic colleagues came up to him after the vote, wanting to sign as co-sponsors and get the bill passed: “This bill I’ve had for a number of years, and if this is a priority for the Democratic majority, shame on them. I would think college tuition for the kids of those who make the ultimate sacrifice would be a no brainer,” Hawley said. “At least five” Democrats told him “we need to get this taken care of,” New York Post reported.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo at an event on Roosevelt Island, N.Y., on Sept. 13, 2017. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Governor Andrew Cuomo also felt compelled to get involved in the controversy, promising to add the rejected funding to the veterean’s program. He said in Buffalo on Wednesday that he would do so before the legislative session ends in June: “I believe people who serve this nation and who made the ultimate sacrifice and lost their lives, I believe their families should be shown the same respect and we have a moral obligation.” The governor continued: “It requires a legal change, but I would support that legal change and we have many more weeks of legislative action, the legislature’s not going anywhere, so there’s plenty of time to pass that law.”

Assemblyman Mark Walczyk (R-Fort Drum), who serves in the Army Reserves, said he talked to Glick after the vote saying, “she seemed genuinely supportive of the concept and that this needs to be negotiated as part of the budget.”