New York Assembly Democrats on Tuesday refused to advance a bill that would have provided free state college tuition aid for children of military personnel from New York State who were killed while on duty–one week after these same Democrats approved a state budget that set aside $27 million in college tuition aid for illegal aliens and their children.
“I had a bill that has bipartisan support laid aside in the committee by downstate politicians,” State Rep. Stephen Hawley (R-Batavia) told WGRZ after the Assembly’s Higher Education Committee voted 15 to 11 on Tuesday to shelve the bill. Hawley, the bill’s author said that the Democrats’ decision to hold his bill effectively quashed its chances of making to a floor vote this session.
The decision came after committee chair Deborah Glick, D-Manhattan, and Speaker Carl Heastie said $27 million from the state’s budget would go towards supporting the Jose Peralta New York State DREAM Act, which allows illegal immigrants to qualify for state aid for higher education, Newsweek reported.
Glick said any expansion of college tuition aid to Gold Star families was not within the state’s budget and pointed to an already-existing program that provides $2.7 million to 145 students who are dependents of vets who served in combat zones, the New York Post reported.
“To slap our veterans in the face by laying this aside, with Democrat and Republican support, is mind-boggling,” Hawley told WGRZ.
“Assemblywoman Glick should be ashamed of herself,” said State Sen. Robert Ortt (R-Niagara). “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.”
Mike Whyland, a spokesman for Assembly Democrats, defended the action, saying the Republican-led bill “would have expanded the eligibility beyond the scope and should be considered within the context of the budget.”
When asked to respond to the GOP lawmakers, he said: “It’s purely political and it’s unfortunate that they are using children as pawns.”
Assemblyman Will Barclay (R-Pulaski) said: “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.”
“Is there anything that the state can do, or might do, or perhaps is already doing to help the sons and daughters of those who died in service of our country, instead of the sons and daughters of those who came into it illegally?” a WGRZ’s Dave McKinley asked Governor Cuomo.
Governor Cuomo indicated that he supported the bill, although as WGRZ points out, he didn’t put it in his budget.