City Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) says every candidate for the state Senate should have only one priority in January no matter which party he or she belongs to.
“It should be jobs — creating jobs and helping people keep the jobs they already have,” he said.
Ulrich is running against Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach), the man he replaced in the City Council less than four years ago.
And Ulrich believes the senator’s record in the council and in Albany makes a Republican challenger more suited for the seat.
“I can accomplish more in the Senate majority that he can in the minority,” Ulrich said.
Like most of the Senate Republicans, Ulrich favors reducing corporate tax rates along with tax incentives to encourage businesses to come to and stay in the state.
He supports a measure that would cut corporate tax rates 20 percent, from 6.5 percent to 5.2.
“That would save businesses about $45 million, and I think that would eventually wind up back in the state’s kitty” because it would allow for more jobs and more spending by individuals and the private sector, Ulrich said.
He also is open to a proposal that would reduce manufacturing taxes to zero for an as-yet undetermined time frame; and incentives for hiring veterans and the unemployed.
But he also supports an effort by Sen. Tim Kennedy (D-Buffalo) to eliminate tax breaks for companies that send jobs overseas. And he breaks with conventional GOP wisdom in his support for increasing the minimum wage and mandatory paid sick leave for businesses.
“It is impossible for a single parent or a family of two to live in New York with its high cost of living at $7.25 an hour,” he said.
He favors legislation similar to that recently passed in Connecticut that increased the minimum wage and established a mandatory five paid sick days per year for employees of companies that employ more than 50 people, saying neither would place an undue burden on a large business. A current New York proposal is for as many as nine days.
“The nine [paid sick days] is too much,” he said. “And Connecticut made exceptions for smaller companies and seasonal workers.”
Nowhere does Ulrich differ from Addabbo more than on the issue of hydrofracking, the process being considered for removing natural gas from upstate New York rock deposits using the high-pressure injection of water and chemicals into the ground.
Addabbo is categorically opposed to permitting the process in New York State, citing concerns over potential impact to the city’s upstate water supply and a lack of supervision over the waste products from the process.
“Joe Addabbo says he’s for creating jobs. He’s just for creating them in Pennsylvania,” Ulrich said, referring to a thriving natural gas industry just over the New York State line.
“These are not $7.25 an hour jobs fixing slot machines at Resorts World,” Ulrich said. “These are good-paying jobs and it means millions in tax revenue at a time when we’re cutting education funding.”
Ulrich believes the federal Environmental Protection Agency should take the lead on supervision of the process.
“He only wants certain kinds of jobs,” the councilman said of his opponent.
Ulrich falls mostly in line with his party on gun control issues, though he says he is willing to talk about microstamping legislation, which would require every firearm manufactured in the state to imprint a unique marking on shell casings. The legislation is opposed by the Republican hierarchy.
“I’m open to it,” he said. “I’m not being endorsed by the [National Rifle Association] and I’m not seeking their endorsement. That’s the difference between Joe Addabbo and me. He does what he’s told.”
And Ulrich believes that has had an impact on Addabbo’s ability to bring back discretionary funding to the 15th District, much of which has been vetoed by Gov. Cuomo since he took office.
The money traditionally has been given from the state budget to senior centers, food pantries, community centers and youth sports programs — organizations that have been facing cuts or possible elimination since Cuomo tightened the spigot.
“But some people have gotten discretionary funds,” Ulrich said. “A lot of it did go to Republicans on Long Island and upstate, but it’s right there in the budget that Gov. Cuomo signed. Joe says the governor vetoed discretionary funds? No — he vetoed your discretionary funds.”
On transportation, Ulrich takes a dim view of a proposal by Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D-Rockaway Beach) to revitalize the old Long Island Rail Road Rockaway Beach Line; and another by Addabbo to run a ferry from the Rockaways to Manhattan.
“I’m all for increased transportation from southwest Queens,” he said, adding that upgrades are possible to bus and subway service as well as infrastructure.
He said there is little point in addressing the rail line, which has not run between the Rockaways and Rego Park since 1962 — unless the cash-strapped Metropolitan Transportation Authority takes up the mantle.
“They have a lot of convincing to do before they begin to run trains through people’s backyards,” he said. Ulrich added that Goldfeder’s desire to use $29 million in unspent transportation money would represent only a drop in a bucket.
“Tell me how much it costs and where you’re getting the money,” he said.
He added the ferry idea has been tried and failed.
“It was a bad location, it was too slow, it went only to downtown, and it cost $5 each way,” he said. “Where are you going to get the boat?
“Tell me how much it’s going to cost and where you’re going to get the money,” he repeated.
Unlike many in the council, Ulrich agreed with a recent court ruling that could abolish the MTA’s payroll tax on the five boroughs and surrounding counties to help finance operations to the tune of $1.2 billion.
Ulrich believes the agency has other sources of revenue, including more than $200 million in buildings and real estate holdings throughout the city, a measure he hesitated to call a one-shot deal.
Ulrich also favors tax credits for parents who send their children to private and parochial school.
“Vouchers wouldn’t work, but some kind of tax credit is possible,” he said. “These parents pay twice — once for a public school seat they are not using and again for tuition.”
He also said parents who do choose private school save the city more than $15,000 per student.