State lawmakers are considering legislation that would help disabled veterans win state contracts. The idea had initially been opposed by some Democrats who feared it would hurt minority and women owned businesses. Zack Fink filed the following report.
Eugene Parrotta is a Vietnam veteran who earned a Purple Heart after taking shrapnel in his knees.
“Those healed eventually. They do heal. The invisible wounds, the PTSD, really never heals 100 percent, but you actually have to walk on, live a normal life,” said Parrotta.
Parrotta and his nephew own a flooring business. Under a bill being considered by the legislature, their small business could gain an advantage when it comes to awarding state contracts.
"The federal government already has a set aside and over 40 other states have matched that federal set aside. That's all we are looking to do is to allow these service disabled veterans, real heroes, who have been hurt and returned home, that we give them meaningful employment,” said state Sen. Greg Ball of Brewster.
Under the bill, 5 percent of state contracts would be set aside for small businesses owned by disabled veterans.
"A million veterans in New York State, 73,000 disabled veterans in New York State. New York State unemployment among disabled veterans is almost 80 percent,” said Parrotta.
This is not the first time this issue has come up in New York State. Governor David Paterson vetoed a similar bill in 2010. Some democrats were concerned that set asides for veterans would interfere with set asides for women- and minority-owned businesses.
"I do believe we have addressed those concerns. I don't believe there is any impact on that. This is just disabled vets. We are not taking away from anybody. You know, we have disabled vets who are minority as well,” said Assemblyman Felix Ortiz of Brooklyn.
Governor Andrew Cuomo not only supports the current bill, he called for its passage in his state of the state address.
"Disabled veterans showed us their loyalty. We must show them our loyalty,” Cuomo said.
Next week governor Cuomo will deliver his budget message, where he will outline how he intends to fund his initiates. Unlike this disabled veterans bill, many of the governor's top priorities this year do not require legislative approval.