Bill to allow contributions for veterans cemetery in Sussex County

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Bipartisan legislation sponsored Assembly members Alison Littell McHose and Parker Space, both Republicans, that would allow for voluntary contributions by taxpayers on gross income tax returns for the development of the Northern New Jersey Veterans Memorial Cemetery advanced in the Assembly Military and Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

“Allowing taxpayers to contribute to the establishment of a veteran’s memorial cemetery in Northern New Jersey is an excellent way to honor the men and women who valiantly served our country,” said McHose, R-Sussex, Warren and Morris. “Currently, taxpayers may choose to give a portion of their tax refund to a variety of funds, including breast cancer research, drug abuse education and child abuse prevention. They are, without doubt, all very worthy causes. So too is providing a resting place for veterans from the northern part of our state which is currently underserved.

Northern New Jersey does not have a designated veterans’ cemetery. The state-operated Brigadier General William C. Doyle Memorial Cemetery, located in Wrightstown, Burlington County, is at least a two-hour drive for most residents of Northern New Jersey. In addition, the only national cemeteries in the area, maintained by the Veterans Administration, are located in Beverly, N.J., and in Pennsylvania and New York. The other veterans’ cemeteries in the state — in Atlantic, Cumberland, Cape May, Gloucester and Salem counties — are all operated by their respective county governments.

“This is a great opportunity to not only honor our veterans, but ease a burden on their surviving families who currently must travel long distances to bury and visit the grave site of their loved one,” said Space, R-Sussex, Warren and Morris. “I commend the veterans who initiated this movement to build a graveyard exclusively for their fellow colleagues of the armed forces, and believe our residents will overwhelmingly support this very worthwhile cause when given the chance.”

The bill would establish the “Northern New Jersey Veterans Memorial Cemetery Development Fund” and provide for a designation on the state gross income tax return that will permit taxpayers to make voluntary contributions to the fund. The money will facilitate the development and operation of the Northern New Jersey Veterans Memorial Cemetery.

There are about 100,000 veterans in the Northern New Jersey region. A group of veterans initiated the movement to build the cemetery, will be the state’s first nonprofit cemetery, and have secured a 66-acre parcel of land in Sparta, Sussex County. The New Jersey Cemetery Board approved the application in January.

Once complete, there will be a section in the cemetery for about 16,000 graves and another section for remains. Sussex County, which donated the land, has pledged $50,000. Once the cemetery is operating, organizers of the project expect it to be self-sustaining.

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