De Blasio’s Pre-K Tax Doomed Because It Divides N.Y., Cuomo Says

Governor Andrew Cuomo said Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to tax New York City’s wealthy to fund pre-kindergarten won’t pass the legislature as mayors from Niagara Falls to Yonkers backed Cuomo’s competing plan to fund it statewide without raising levies.

While the mayor said yesterday that New York City’s children are poorer and deal with more challenges than those elsewhere, the governor’s comment today on a conference call with reporters and e-mailed statements from upstate local elected officials underscored de Blasio’s challenge in enacting his signature initiative.

Cuomo, who said yesterday he’d fully fund de Blasio’s program without a tax increase, is pushing his statewide plan, contending that his fellow Democrat’s proposed tax isn’t fair to jurisdictions that don’t have millionaires to tap.

“You’re not going to pass a piece of legislation that says my children should go first,” Cuomo said today. “That’s not the way we govern, that’s not the way we operate, and it’s not going to be successful. We’ll have a pre-K program for all children of this state.”

De Blasio visited Albany last month after winning in November by the largest margin for a nonincumbent in history with a campaign that described a metropolis divided between rich and poor. Since then, lawmakers and the governor, who must approve most local levies, have thwarted de Blasio’s efforts. The Republican state senate co-leader said Feb. 10 he won’t let de Blasio’s plan get a vote.

Cuomo’s Duty

When the mayor proposed his $73.7 billion budget yesterday, he used it to push the issue by including the more than $500 million the city would reap by raising taxes on income above $500,000. While taking questions from reporters, de Blasio said the tax in New York City is necessary because, though there are “serious economic problems” upstate, the kids in New York City are poorer.

“We have the largest population of poor public school kids, largest population of public school kids in need,” de Blasio said. “The governor by obligation has to think about the whole state, and he’s right that there are some very troubled areas of the state that need special support. I’m right to say that our kids in New York City are not ready for their futures.”

Paul Dyster, the Democratic mayor of Niagara Falls, said today in an e-mailed statement that he was “disheartened” that de Blasio “seemed to imply that the children of his city deserved pre-K more than the children in other cities in our state.”

He added, “I can’t accept any implication that the poor children of New York City are more important that the poor children of Niagara Falls.”

Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano, Middletown Mayor Joseph DeStefano, Hornell Mayor Mayor Shawn Hogan and Ulster County Executive Mike Hein also issued statements in support of Cuomo’s statewide plan.

To contact the reporter on this story: Freeman Klopott in Albany at fklopott@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Stephen Merelman at smerelman@bloomberg.net

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