New York lawmakers on Tuesday refused to advance a bill that would have provided free college tuition to the families of military personnel from the state who were killed in the line of duty.
The Assembly’s Higher Education Committee voted 15 to 11 to hold the bipartisan bill, effectively ending its chances of making it to a floor vote this session.
The move comes a week after lawmakers passed a $175 billion state budget that included $27 million to provide college tuition aid for undocumented immigrants.
Some Central New York lawmakers said it was outrageous to block a bill that would likely cost in the hundreds of thousands of dollars to help children of military members who died for their county.
“It’s disgraceful,” said Assemblyman Gary Finch, R-Springport. “Soldiers who lay down their lives and make the ultimate sacrifice represent the best of us. The children they love so dearly deserve access to the opportunity and promise that is the hallmark of this country. I can’t imagine what’s in your heart when you vote ‘no’ on a bill like this.”
Four Democrats, including Assemblyman Al Stirpe, D-Cicero, split with their party and voted against holding the bill in committee.
Assemblyman Will Barclay, R-Pulaski, one of the bill’s co-sponsors, said in an interview after the vote that he sensed Democrats simply didn’t want to pass the bill because it was authored by a Republican, Steve Hawley, R-Batavia.
“We get so caught up in majority and minority issues here, we can’t see the forest through the trees,” Barclay said. “I don’t know how they don’t justify this.”
Barclay said that an estimated 500 or fewer New York college students would be eligible for the tuition aid. The state would pay for children, spouses and financial dependents of New York military members killed in action to attend SUNY and CUNY schools.
The recipients would receive free tuition, room and board through a “MERIT” scholarship provided by the state.
Assemblywoman Deborah Glick, D-Manhattan, the chair of the Higher Education Committee, had no immediate comment on the reasons why the bill was held in committee.
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