Virginia Senate takes no action on move to repeal military tuition program restrictions

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — The Virginia Senate has failed for a second time to eliminate new restrictions on a state program that offers free college tuition at state schools for families of veterans who were killed or seriously disabled while on active duty.

The state House of Delegates voted unanimously last week to repeal restrictions to the Virginia Military Survivors and Dependents Education Program that had been placed in the state’s annual budget earlier this year.

Over the past five years, enrollment in the program jumped from 1,385 students to 6,107, increasing the cost for Virginia’s state colleges from $12 million to $65 million. To rein in those costs, the budget deal passed in May restricted eligibility to associate and undergraduate degrees, required participants to apply for other forms of financial aid, and tightened residency requirements.

The Senate, which has reconvened twice in the past two weeks to work on the issue, ended its session Monday without taking any action. Democrats on the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee failed to vote on the repeal bill passed by the House, saying it was constitutionally flawed, The Washington Post reported. Democrats on the panel also advanced a similar measure, but that legislation did not get a floor vote after Republican senators blocked a plan to fast-track it.

Republicans and Democrats accused each other of playing politics with an issue that has angered military families.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Surovell said he and Senate Finance Committee Chairwoman L. Louise Lucas met privately for hours with Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin earlier Monday but could not reach an agreement on any of their proposals.

“He wanted full repeal and taxpayers cover the cost and we’ll talk about it in January. … He just basically said, ‘Trust me,’” Surovell said. “There’s not a whole lot of trust there right now.”

Youngkin criticized Democrats for not taking action in the Senate, like the House did. Both chambers are narrowly controlled by Democrats.

“Senate Democrat leadership is hurting our military heroes, first responders and their families every time they show up and do nothing, as well as wasting time and taxpayer money,” Youngkin said in a statement.

The governor said he would order the House and Senate to come back to Richmond if they do not come up with a fix.

Copyright © 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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