A Column from Assemblyman Mike Norris (R,C,I,Ref-Lockport)

No one is more deserving of our thanks and appreciation than the men and women who have served or are serving in our military. Our veterans are the pride of our community, and I am proud to fight for them at our state Capitol.

Unfortunately, year after year the fight gets harder as the governor plays politics with funding for veterans programs. Not just one or two programs – but all of their programs. In fact, this year he proposed in his Executive Budget to cut $5.6 million in vital veteran services funding. When you’re talking about a state budget that spends more than $176 billion, it is a disgrace that he proposes cuts to this critical veterans funding year after year.

For the second year in a row, the governor has proposed to eliminate funding for the crucial Joseph P. Dwyer Veterans Peer Counseling program. This is outrageous. Please know I am working hard with my colleagues to restore funding for this proven, life-saving program that provides peer counseling for veterans and their loved ones.

But I know our veterans deserve even more than that, which is why I’m proud to put my name behind a brand new legislative package of bills that will help improve the lives of our veterans:

§  Upgrading the Division of Veterans Affairs to an official state department (A.9149)

§  Creating a Veterans Legal Defense Fund (A.9550)

§  Starting plans for three new veterans nursing homes (A.9546)

§  Better enabling veterans to fill the gap between active duty service medical care and care through the VA with creation of a Veterans Health Savings Account

§  Helping find missing veterans with a new program called New York State Green Alert, similar to an Amber Alert for missing children (A.9529)

§  Streamlining the state’s veterans’ medals process so veterans and their families won’t have to wait as long to receive the honors they deserve (awaiting bill number)

§  Allowing disabled veterans to use our state parks free of charge (A.753)

I believe there is never enough we can do to say thank you to the men and women who have served in our military. But we can start by taking steps to ensure veterans have the tools to succeed after their active service, and safeguard them as they have safeguarded our freedoms. As we continue to negotiate a final state budget, please know I’m working hard for you. And on behalf of our entire community, thank you to all our military and veterans!

EDITOR’S NOTE: Mike Norris represents the 144th Assembly District comprised of portions of Erie, Niagara and Orleans counties. To learn more about Norris, please visit his Assembly Website or follow him on Facebook.