Lhota Would Fund Universal NYC Pre-K Without Higher Taxes

New York Republican mayoral candidate Joseph Lhota said he agreed with Bill de Blasio, the presumptive Democratic candidate, that the city should offer universal, all-day pre-kindergarten. He disagreed that the rich should be taxed to pay for it.

“It's the right thing to do,” Lhota, who was a top aide to former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, said today during an interview on WPIX Channel 11. ``It’s the wrong thing to raise taxes; we’re the highest taxed city in the United States.”

De Blasio, 52, elected to the city watchdog post of public advocate in 2009, has made the proposal a signature issue of a campaign waged on the theme of a “Tale of Two Cities” divided between rich and poor. His plan would improve student performance and address income inequality in a city where almost half are poor or struggling to get by, de Blasio says.

The proposal would raise the marginal tax rate on incomes above $500,000 to 4.4 percent from almost 3.9 percent, or an average $973 a year for the 27,300 taxpayers earning $500,000 to $1 million. That would raise more than $500 million to pay for universal all-day pre-school and after-hours programs for adolescents.

“We have the money within the budget to pay for universal pre-K,” Lhota said. “We need to find more efficiencies in our government to pay for programs just like this.”

Vote Count

De Blasio finished a Sept. 10 primary election with 40.3 percent of the voting-machine tally, according to unofficial returns from 99 percent of precincts, the Associated Press reported. That surpassed the 40 percent he would need to avoid an Oct. 1 runoff with former city Comptroller William Thompson, who got 26.2 percent.

Before de Blasio can be certified as the Democratic mayoral nominee, he must await the city Board of Elections official count, which includes at least about 78,000 still-untallied paper ballots.

Thompson, 60, said last night he wouldn’t concede victory to de Blasio until the board completes its canvassing of the machine vote.

Lhota, 58, a former Metropolitan Transportation Authority chairman, has said de Blasio’s tax-the-rich plan and his “Tale of Two Cities” campaign theme emphasizing the gap between the wealthy and the poor would divide the city between income classes.

De Blasio has said the gap has become a crisis after it was neglected during 20 years of leadership under Giuliani and Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who ran twice as a Republican and as an independent on the Republican ballot line in 2009.

The mayor, founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP, is barred from seeking a fourth term.

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