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Candidates face questions from American Legion

Borough veterans and their families grilled seven Queens candidates making bids this fall for Albany seats during a Broad Channel forum last weekend, questioning their allegiance to improving services for veterans in their districts.

The American Legion hosted its annual legislative breakfast Saturday at the organization’s Cross Bay Boulevard chapter in Broad Channel, where audience members questioned the candidates’ stances on veterans issues.

Keynote speaker John Tipping, former state legislative chairman for the American Legion, introduced a list of 14 items the legion is pushing for the state’s legislative body to adopt, including the preservation of veteran nursing home buildings, prohibiting protests at military funerals, increasing employment for disabled veterans, making an income tax exemption for state personnel serving in a combat zone and requiring Albany to enforce laws that would require the United States flag to be displayed in every school class room as well as the daily recital of the Pledge of Allegiance by students.

“Unfortunately, the veteran has not been accorded his due,” said state Sen. Serphin Maltese (R−Glendale)Maltese. “Some of our guys are not feeling as well as they should or have passed on. Fiscal concerns have to be set aside to help our veterans.”

Maltese said he has gotten capital funding for 15 veterans posts in his district.

Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer (D−Rockaway Beach), who sits on the Assembly’s veterans affairs committee, said she opposed outsourcing outside contractors to inspect veterans’ nursing homes. She said she will prioritize veterans’ issues as the Legislature prepares to make cuts across the board during a national and statewide economic downturn.

“I can’t honestly say there won’t be any cuts,” she said. “But we are going to try to hold as much as we can for the future.”

State Sen. Shirley Huntley (D−Jamaica) said she would also fight to ensure that money was not cut for veterans’ programs.

“I come from a family of veterans,” she said. “My dad was in the Navy, my husband was in the Marine Corps, my first son is in the Marine Corps and my second son the U.S. Army,” she said. “I do not vote for budget cuts. I told [Gov. David Paterson], ‘You can remove fat from other areas of government.’ ”

Assembly hopeful Tony Nunziato, a Republican running against state Assemblywoman Margaret Markey (D−Maspeth), said he was concerned that more candidates in the November election did not attend the event.

“It’s a disgrace to see how many legislators did not show up,” he said. “They are forgetting our heroes.”

Other candidates at the forum included City Councilman Joseph Addabbo (D−Howard Beach), who is challenging Maltese for his Albany seat; City Councilman Anthony Como (R−Middle Village); and Tom Dooley, a state Senate hopeful running against state Sen. George Onorato (D−Astoria).

Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e−mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 156.

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