Governor Andrew Cuomo said the state will give New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio money to provide universal pre-kindergarten, including classes for more than 50,000 4-year-olds by September, without raising taxes on the rich.
Cuomo said at a press briefing in Albany today that the levy de Blasio is pushing wouldn’t be fair, because other jurisdictions don’t have millionaires to tap. Cuomo has already put forward a plan that would phase in statewide early childhood education classes without raising taxes.
“I’m ready, as fast he’s ready to move,” Cuomo said. “I will go drive down and deliver the check personally to New York City and help open the first pre-K site.”
De Blasio has said he has a mandate from New York City voters after winning the November election by the biggest margin for a nonincumbent in history. His campaign depicted a metropolis divided between rich and poor that could be healed with the help of classes for young children and a tax on the rich.
De Blasio and Cuomo, fellow Democrats and friends for 20 years, have been squaring off over the proposal. Lawmakers and the governor control most local levies and Cuomo proposed a budget that would cut taxes while providing 4-year-olds with school.
Yesterday, de Blasio’s support in the legislature weakened as a key lawmaker backed off a threat to hold up the state budget if it didn’t include the mayor’s plan. And a poll by Hamden, Connecticut-based Quinnipiac University released today found that 49 percent of city voters support Cuomo’s five-year plan to spend more than $2.2 billion statewide on pre-K and after school programs. Forty percent backed de Blasio’s, which would commit $2.5 billion over five years for the same activities just in New York City.
De Blasio said last month that he can provide classes to 53,604 children by September and to 73,250 by 2015. It would require raising taxes on income above $500,000 a year to 4.4 percent from almost 3.9 percent, he said. For the 27,300 taxpayers earning $500,000 to $1 million, the average increase would be $973 a year, according to the Independent Budget Office, a municipal agency.
Cuomo said today that the state is best positioned to provide the classes.
“I want a universal, full-day pre-K program for the state. New York City, yes, but also Buffalo,” Cuomo said. “Once you say you should do pre-K in rich communities and poor communities, upstate and downstate, then you need a mechanism of distribution, which is the state and that’s why state financing makes sense.”
Marti Adams, a de Blasio spokeswoman, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.