March 25, 2014After nearly a decade-long fight, Sen. Greg Ball announced the passage of legislation through the Senate that would facilitate the awarding of state contracts to disabled veterans.
The bill, which Ball says is very similar to the plan adopted by the federal government, would create a 6 percent state contract set-aside for businesses owned by service-connected disabled-veterans. Ball, R-Patterson, has previously touted veteran unemployment as an extremely pressing issue.
"This single act will do more to reverse the high veteran unemployment rate than anything else we have done, or will do," said Ball, who is chairman of the Senate Veterans, Homeland Security and Military Affairs Committee. "We have been fighting to establish this set-aside for years and I want to sincerely thank Gov. [Andrew] Cuomo for giving us the backing we desperately needed at this critical time."
Cuomo gave the program his blessing in February saying, "will play a large part in our ongoing efforts to create new economic opportunities for the men and women of the U.S. armed forces."
According to the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, New York state is home to nearly 900,000 veterans, 600,000 of whom have served during periods of conflict. The governor estimates there are roughly 106,000 service-connected disabled veterans in New York state.
Originally, Ball was calling for a 5 percent set-aside but after negotiations with the governor, Sen. Co-Leader Dean Skelos, and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver the six percent figure was agreed upon, doubling the amount of the federal program.
"The contributions and sacrifices made by New York's active duty military veterans and their families are an inspiration to us all," said Skelos, R– Rockville Centre. "This bill demonstrates our commitment to building on our efforts to ensure that veterans receive the benefits, support and economic opportunities they deserve."
Brooklyn Democrat Felix Ortiz is the sponsor of the same-as bill – which has been dubbed the Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Business Act– in the Assembly. In February Ortiz was confident that the bill would pass both legislative houses and begin assisting veterans immediately.
"This will be the year that we can stand up together with the governor who has managed to take a leap to ensure that this bill becomes a reality as well and to speak loud and clear that he does want this to happen," said Ortiz, while speaking at Ball's legislative lobby day for veterans last month.
Rep. Sean Maloney recently joined Ball to host a "NY Jobs for Heroes Roundtable" at the Carmel Town Hall to push for the passage of the legislation.
"We must do all we can to support our heroes, and I commend Gov. Cuomo and Sen. Ball for working together on this historic agreement to ensure our veteran-owned businesses have access to billions of dollars in state contracts," said Maloney, D–Newburgh.
A spokesman for Ball said there are indications the bill could move to the Assembly floor as soon as Tuesday afternoon.