Assemblyman Michael Fitzpatrick (R,C-Smithtown) today joined Gov. George Pataki and his Minority colleagues to unveil Patriot Plan II, a comprehensive package of tax and other benefits for military men and women that builds on the historic legislation enacted last year to help New Yorkers called to serve in the war on terror.
"I support my Minority colleagues’ efforts to enhance the Patriot Plan," said Assemblyman Fitzpatrick. "The sacrifices made by New York’s armed forces have not and should not go unnoticed or unappreciated. The proposed enhancements to the Patriot Plan will go a long way to easing the burden placed on the men and women who serve and their families."
The enhancements – including a state tax exemption for duty pay and new rules to allow activated troops to qualify for college tuition benefits – are aimed at further easing financial and other burdens placed on men and women in the National Guard and Reserves.
The plan was unveiled at the headquarters of the 42nd Infantry "Rainbow" Division in Troy, N.Y., where up to 1,000 New York members of the National Guard were put on notice this week that they may soon be activated to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan.
- Exempts Guard’s pay from state taxes: Waives state taxes on Guard and Reserve pay for active service related to the war against terror within the state;
- Increases pay for NYS military personnel: Raises the minimum per diem pay rate for state active duty from $100 to $125;
- Helps local governments: Permits local governments to hire retired public employees to fill a staffing need caused by the activation of an employee;
- Expands eligibility for tuition awards: Extends the time period for applying for tuition awards to Sept. 1, 2006, making grants available to hundreds of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans who otherwise would be ineligible;
- Extends certain tax return deadlines: Gives special consideration to troops serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom for filing extensions and payments;
- Eases ability of dependents to qualify for certain benefits: Eliminates a requirement that the dependents apply to a court in order to obtain the benefits provided for in the Soldiers and Sailors Relief Act;
- Provides free hunting and fishing licenses: Clarifies that the original Patriot Plan provision granting free sportsmen licenses is available to all reservists and active members of the state militia.
The Assembly Minority Conference favors additional benefits for members of the Guard and Reserve not included in Patriot Plan II, including property tax breaks for Gold Star parents of troops killed in action, employer tax credits for hiring members of the Guard and Reserve, and preferences for soldiers who are forced to suspend their academic studies due to activation. These proposals are the subject of separate legislation.
The original Patriot Plan – originally an initiative of the Assembly Minority – protects service men and women from housing and employment discrimination, caps loan obligations and allows for termination of auto leases in the event of military activation, provides for automatic extensions of driver’s licenses and registrations and grants free hunting and fishing licenses to eligible service members.