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Kanas Says De Blasio’s Higher Taxes Won’t Damage NYC

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Jan. 9 (Bloomberg) -- New York City’s richest residents may have to meet Mayor Bill De Blasio’s demand for higher taxes to fund early-childhood education programs, said BankUnited Inc. Chief Executive Officer John Kanas.

“If wealthy New Yorkers have to kick in a little bit of money so that young people can go to school early, so that their parents can go to work -- not so bad, right?” Kanas said today in an interview with Betty Liu on Bloomberg Television.

The new mayor has vowed to raise taxes on the wealthy to finance pre-kindergarten care, and Kanas said De Blasio, 52, will reach his goal in ways that don’t “kill the golden goose” of the city’s business community. “He will find his way to satisfy both sides,” Kanas said.

De Blasio’s five-year plan would generate $530 million annually by raising taxes on income above $500,000 a year to 4.4 percent from almost 3.9 percent. For the 27,300 city taxpayers earning $500,000 to $1 million, the average increase would be $973 a year, according to the Independent Budget Office, a municipal agency.

Kanas, 67, has run lenders in the New York region before including North Fork Bancorp and has opened branches of Florida-based BankUnited in Manhattan. Kanas, who received $3 million in salary and bonus for 2012, said his primary home is on Long Island. Residents of the suburban community aren’t subject to the city’s income tax.

Billionaire Backers

BankUnited is backed by billionaire investor Wilbur Ross and private-equity firm Blackstone Group LP, whose chairman, Steve Schwarzman, is also a billionaire.

The bank was among U.S. lenders that failed under previous managers during the housing-market collapse, prompting regulators to seize its operations and sell most of them in 2009 to a group of private-equity investors.

Kanas has been expanding Miami Lakes-based BankUnited after attempts to sell the firm failed to draw any bids that met the board’s expectations. While the company is looking at takeovers of other firms, Kanas said he hasn’t done any deals because of “lofty” valuations.

“We are interviewing and discussing with people every week, every day, any acquisition opportunity that might make sense for us,” he said. “But so far our own performance outstrips anything that we could see.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Elizabeth Dexheimer in New York at edexheimer@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Peter Eichenbaum at peichenbaum@bloomberg.net

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