State Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach) and Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) squared off Thursday night to debate issues in one of the most closely watched and possibly most expensive state legislative races in th country.
The two are vying for Addabbo’s seat in the newly drawn 15th Senate District. The debate took place at the Ave Maria Catholic Academy in Howard Beach, and was sponsored by the Queens Chronicle, the Forum Newsgroup and Citizens Union.
Ulrich said his three top priorities if elected would be job creation; tax cuts for the middle class and small businesses; and ethics reform.
Addabbo’s would be legislation to prevent hydrofracking, an environmentally controversial process for extracting natural gas from underground rock deposits upstate; job creation; and stronger gun control legislation.
Hydrofracking was the biggest point of contention.
Addabbo wants the practice banned, saying the practice of shooting water and chemicals into the ground upstate can threaten the city’s water supply. He also said the jobs that proponents claim would come would come from out of state, with oil and energy companies bringing in their own technicians to to the work.
Ulrich favors it to bring jobs, economic development and tax revenue that are now being enjoyed across the border in Pennsylvania, provided science proves it can be done safely, especially if it can be done first in areas that are not near reservoirs.
The challenger and incumbent put out proposals for job creation and claimed the mantle of being a friend of small business.
Ulrich supports trimming the state corporate tax from 6.5 to 5.2 percent, while Addabbo said he has proposed four bills that would offer tax credits to businesses that hire veterans, the disabled, senior citizens and people still paying off student loans.
He also would like to cut some of the red tape now involved in starting up a new business.
Both consider “stop and frisk” a useful tool for law enforcement when carried out correctly, though Ulrich criticized Addabbo for supporting a measure that curtailed police use of information obtained during related questioning of subjects.
Both men also support the call for raising the state’s minimum wage of $7.25 per hour and state level campaign finance reform. Both support mayoral control of the schools, though Addabbo would like more tweaking to promote things like more parent involvement.