Chellie Pingree has called on Congress to pass the 21st Century GI Bill, now before the Senate. The bill passed the House last week.
"Veterans who have completed their service and are ready to come home deserve this," she said. "They've fought for us. Now it's our turn to stand up and fight for them."
"There is no simple solution to our economic problems--we need to end the war, fix our healthcare system and develop clean energy jobs--but we also need to provide training and education to create a workforce for the 21st Century. Veterans who have served our country in a time of war deserve the chance to get that kind of education."
The new legislation sponsored by Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) would finance a college education for thousands of Maine veterans who began their tours of duty after the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001. It would provide free in-state tuition to a public university for all active duty National Guard and Reserve veterans who have served at least three years since September 11th. The bill would also offer a monthly housing stipend and a thousand dollar annual allowance for books.
"The original GI bill passed in 1944 led to great prosperity in our country. It was responsible for creating a middle class and resulted in the expansion of our colleges and universities. Dreams of higher education and home ownership became realities for millions of veterans for the first time," Pingree said.
By the time the World War II GI Bill program ended in 1956, about 7.8 million veterans had received some kind of education or training. The Veterans Administration had also guaranteed 5.9 million home loans totaling 50.1 billion dollars. Economists estimate that the original bill returned anywhere between five and 13 dollars for every dollar spent on it.
Maine has one of the highest percentages of veterans of any state in the country. Over 140,000 Mainers have worn a uniform. Nearly 90 percent of the Maine National Guard has been deployed to Iraq.
Chellie Pingree is a candidate for Congress in Maine's 1st District. Pingree has earned a reputation as someone who is willing to stand up and tell the truth, even when it isn't popular. She got her start in public service in her hometown of North Haven. As Majority Leader in the Maine Senate, Pingree introduced and fought to pass a landmark prescription drug-pricing program. She then ran for the US Senate against Susan Collins in 2002, opposing the war in Iraq at a time when it wasn't politically popular. For four years Pingree served as national President of Common Cause, where she fought for ethics and campaign finance reform and against media consolidation.