TEWKSBURY — State Rep. Paul Adams accused state Sen. Barry Finegold, D-Andover, of “constantly raising taxes” and being apart of Beacon Hill’s “go along to get along crowd” last night during a debate at Tewksbury Memorial High School.
Adams is challenging Finegold for the 2nd Essex and Middlesex Senate district seat, representing Andover, Lawrence, Tewksbury and Dracut.
While Adams, R-Andover, was on the offense for much of the hourlong debate, Finegold mostly stuck to defending his record and speaking about his accomplishments since taking the seat in 2010 after serving for 15 years in the 17th Essex House district.
“I think one of the most important things a state Senator can do is to listen,” Finegold said. “This is why I had listening forums in every community in this district.”
He noted working with Sen. Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester, to unfreeze unemployment benefits, increasing local aid in all four communities and making prescription drugs more affordable for senior citizens, to name a few.
Adams said he is running to take the state into a different direction. He said as state representative he has fought to reduce taxes, lower “obscene” government spending and increase local aid.
“If elected state senator I will continue working on those same priorities,” Adams said. “I think my opponent has done the opposite, which illustrates the big differences between us.”
The candidates were asked if allowing Lawrence to borrow $35 million from the state without a financial oversight board was worth the taxpayers’ money, given the controversy surrounding budgets and the indictments of city leaders.
“The city’s finances are being managed,” Adams said. “A big problem that I see is that when my opponent was state representative he voted to cut local aid to the city of Lawrence by millions of dollars and then only one year later had to vote to allow the city to bail itself out with a $35 million loan.”
Finegold did not address Adams’ accusation but said the Lawrence is in a better financial condition with a state overseer in place.
“As far as the city goes, what we have to do moving forward is create jobs. We have to improve the tax base to make sure people can get jobs and have a stronger economic base,” Finegold said. “What I have done in that area is I have worked to recruit companies there.”
The discussion also focused on various tax increases, including a proposal to increase the gas tax that would go directly into fixing infrastructure.
“I don’t think it is a good idea,” Finegold said of the proposed increase. “I think we have to make sure we are using everything we have right now efficiently and effectively as possible.”
Adams also disagreed with the increase.
“My approach is to first look at where we are spending money on Beacon Hill,” Adams said. “What I support is making sure we know what we are spending our money on in this monstrosity of a $33 billion budget and making sure we are focusing on what our priorities are instead of what the go along, get along crowd wants.”
The two candidates also talked about their “greatest errors of judgment” while in office after being prompted by one of the panelists
“When I was younger, I was determined and wanted to do big things for the district,” Finegold said. “I don’t think I spent enough time listening. That is why when I was elected Senator I said I needed to start the listening forums.”
Adams said he wouldn’t have voted for the fiscal year 2012 budget, calling the budget process “skewed.”
“It is full of big spending items I disagree with,” Adams said after getting a chance to take a closer look at the budget. “It is a process that doesn’t work.”
The debate was hosted by the Lowell Sun with media partners the Town Crier and Wilmington and Tewksbury Patch.
Earlier in the evening, both candidates gave brief presentations at a forum hosted by the Tower Hill Neighborhood Association in Lawrence.
Adams told the crowd there are a lot things that need to change on Beacon Hill.
“What I provided as your state representative is a consistent voice for local aid Lawrence receives,” Adams said. “We need to make sure that local aid is consistent and not being cut.”
Finegold mentioned new businesses opening in the city, his efforts to create new jobs, increased public safety and the positive direction of the school system under the leadership of Superintendent/Receiver Jeffrey Riley.
“I’ve always been the person when people tell me what can’t be done, I prove them wrong,” Finegold said.