By Assemblyman Will Barclay
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.
Another bill I sponsor would exempt active military from paying sales and use tax on vehicles upon returning to New York. This was recently moved to the Assembly Ways and Means Committee and I’m pleased that a member from across the aisle, Assemblyman Colton, has taken an interest in this and agreed to work to help this pass in the Democratic-controlled Assembly. With this bipartisan effort, 51 sponsors recently signed onto this bill in the Legislature.
New York enacted a law a while back to discourage people from making out-of-state vehicle purchases simply to avoid paying state sales tax. Therefore, any vehicle purchased in another state is subject to sales tax in that state, and also subject to sales tax in New York when the vehicle is registered here. This law penalizes those in the military who keep their New York state residency and buy cars when stationed in other states. When members of the military return to New York and resume residency here, they are hit with state sales tax when they register their vehicle with the Department of Motor Vehicles because, more often than not, the military member registered their vehicle in the state where they were stationed and not in New York. Even though they may have paid sales tax in the state where they were stationed, they are also required to pay sales tax in New York upon return.
My bill would exempt military from paying this sales tax again. Again, this is the least we can do when our military personnel return home. This bill is in large part thanks to military service members who made my office aware of this when they were forced to pay sales tax in New York when they registered their vehicles here. It was an insult to them and to the sacrifices they made for their country. I am hopeful that we will pass this bill this session through this bipartisan effort.
Two other bills I sponsor would create state military awards for veterans of both Afghanistan and Iraq. The state currently offers awards for veterans, including the Conspicuous Service Medal and Conspicuous Service Cross. Veterans have to qualify for these and meet certain criteria. There are also awards which honor those who served in Operation Enduring Freedom as well as Desert Storm. My colleagues and I would like to add to these honors, to see that those who serve honorably in either Iraq or Afghanistan are also recognized for their service.
Unfortunately, this bill was first introduced in 2005 and died in the Veterans Affairs Committee. I am hopeful this session there will be a renewed interest in honoring our veterans. I, for one, would like them to know their state appreciates their service and this is a small token of appreciation.
If you have any questions or comments on this or any other state issue, or if you would like to be added to my mailing list or receive my newsletter, please contact my office. My office can be reached by mail at 200 North Second Street, Fulton, New York 13069, by e-mail at [email protected] or by calling (315) 598-5185. You may also friend me, Assemblyman Barclay, on Facebook.