Four candidates for the Democratic nomination in the 6th Congressional District had one last go-round with each other last Thursday in a debate sponsored in part by the Juniper Valley Civic Association.
More than 200 attended as Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village), Assemblyman Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows), Assemblywoman Grace Meng (D-Flushing) and Dr. Robert Mittman from Bayside appeared at Our Lady of Hope School in Middle Village, and fielded questions on subjects ranging from the federal budget deficit to controversial accusations against the NYPD.
Lancman pressed his campaign for increasing taxes on the wealthiest Americans as a way to bring down the deficit and preserve Social Security; and his military background.
Crowley, chairwoman of the council’s Fire and Criminal Justice Services Committee, pressed home her background in public safety.
Meng stressed her record as a consensus builder in the Legislature, while Mittman scored points with the audience on spending cuts and the voter photo ID controversy.
The format had two candidates answering one question and two answering another, with time allowed for rebuttal. Candidates also took questions submitted by the audience and could pose one question to the fellow candidate of their choice.
On Social Security Lancman called again for eliminating the cap on taxable income, which now is just over $110,000. He says it would balance the fund for 75 years.
“If you’re making $200,000 or $500,000 or $1 million, you are paying the same as someone making that $110,000,” Lancman said. “That’s not right.”
Crowley said what isn’t right is what would amount to a higher tax on individuals and small businesses during a recession under Lancman’s plan. She said the Social Security fund will do better as more people get back to work and start paying into it again.
Lancman also said raising the capital gains tax rate would reduce the deficit, as it would tax investment income at the same level as earned income. Mittman said that is not enough, and that there also must be federal spending cuts to balance the budget.
“The deficit next year will be a trillion dollars,” Mittman said, holding up a sheet of paper with the figure written out. “That’s 12 zeroes. We need to cut our budget. We can’t tax enough to close that.” He specified that foreign aid and the defense department cannot be spared budget cuts.
Answering a question from the audience, Crowley and Mittman said they support the idea of voters being required to show photo identification.
“We have to make sure the people who are voting are those who are registered and have the right to vote,” Crowley said.
Meng and Lancman, who said ID is important for things like entering secure buildings and bank transactions, were booed upon saying they oppose such a requirement at the polling place.
Meng also took heat for her stance in support of a failed Congressional vote last month that would have defunded the NYPD of about $100 million over alleged impropriety in its intelligence gathering in the Muslim community.
“Of the four candidates here, one said she would have voted for that amendment,” Crowley said. “That candidate is Grace Meng.”
Meng did not answer a question on what NYPD programs she would advocate cutting had the measure gone through. She called the amendment, offered by Congressman Rush Holt (D-NJ), a “resolution.”
“It wasn’t binding,” Meng said after the debate. “I don’t think anyone wants to see the NYPD cutting programs.”
Both Lancman and Crowley said they would fight a cross-harbor rail freight tunnel that would force more trains through Crowley’s backyard in the Glendale area. The councilwoman cited her long record trying to restrict trash trains; Lancman spoke of his recent press conference touting a measure he said would utilize existing federal jurisdiction over railroads.
“I’ve already written the bill,” he said.
All but Mittman favored reimposing a commuter tax on suburbanites coming into New York City to work.
Crowley said as a congresswoman she would abstain from any vote on which she was not afforded an opportunity to read the bill involved. Mittman and Meng said they would cast official objections.
Lancman said, absent a mammoth bill presented in the late hours, the solution is easy.
“I would read the bill,” Lancman said. “It isn’t rocket science.”