Fundraising veterans license plate proposed again

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Veterans license plateBy Ilana Kowarski

Del. Mike Smigiel is reintroducing legislation to create a state license plate emblazoned with the words “Maryland Supports Veterans” after a year of campaigning for its passage.

The legislation was first introduced in the 2012 session, but it died in committee due to a tie vote. Smigiel, R-Cecil,  vows to garner more support this year, and Monday night he staged a rally at the State House.

“Why would you stop the citizens of Maryland from voluntarily supporting veterans?,” Smigiel said at the small rally. “ I’m tired of politicians honoring veterans in speeches and on the floor of the House, and then dishonoring them with their decisions.”

All proceeds from the license plates would go directly to the Veterans Trust Fund, which supports needy veterans and their families.  The fund currently contains roughly $13,000, and the license plates are expected to raise an additional $42,800, according to the Department of Legislative Services.

Smigiel said that Maryland’s veterans are woefully underserved by the state’s trust fund, which contains roughly 2.8 cents per veteran.  There are over 450,000 veterans in Maryland.

Some of their family members were at Monday’s rally. Bill Newton and his wife M.J. Madwolf each have siblings in the military.  “It’s a no brainer, a simple way to show our appreciation for veterans,” Madwolf said.

Newton agreed. “I cannot understand why there’s any opposition to the license plate because it’s financially neutral.  In fact, any money that goes to the trust fund helps to defray government costs for veterans.”

Smiegel blamed Environmental Matters Chair Maggie McIntosh for his bill’s failure last year and accused her of “caring more about clams than veterans.”  He said that his opponents refused to create a license plate for veterans, because it might divert funds from the Chesapeake Bay Plate, which raises money for sustainability efforts in the bay.

UPDATE: McIntosh’s office said she will respond later in the week.