New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio met with Democratic legislative leaders today in Albany, making his case that the Legislature should approve a tax increase on the rich to fund pre-kindergarten in the city.
De Blasio received rock-star treatment as he made his way through the halls of the Capitol, just hours before Gov. Andrew Cuomo will give his State of the State address.
The visit shows the battle that is to come: Cuomo hasn’t indicated support for taxing the rich, although he supports added funding for pre-k.
De Blasio visited privately with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, and then spoke briefly at a breakfast held by the Independent Democratic Conference, which shares control with Republicans in the Senate.
Silver and the IDC members reiterated their support for the new mayor’s plans.
“His proposal to make sure that 50,000 four-year-olds have universial pre-k, making sure we have afterschool programs in all our middle schools in the city of New York is something we should have done a long time ago,” Klein said. “With his vision, with his ability, we’re going to get it done.”
De Blasio urged lawmakers to adopt his proposal, saying it’s not too much to ask the rich to pay a little more to fund the program for children.
“The people we’re asking to help, those who make $500,000 or more, they are doing very, very well,” de Blasio said. “I always suggest people look at the stock market to see how it’s doing lately. I assure you those who are wealthy are doing quite well. We’re asking them to do a little more so our children can finally get on the right track and we can rebuild that middle class.”
The plan faces uncertainty in the Legislature, with Republicans opposing it and Cuomo leery of raising taxes in his re-election year.
Silver said that school districts outside New York City can raise property taxes to fund schools. He said it’s a similar request the city is seeking for itself.
“We should give the mayor what he asks for,” Silver said.
De Blasio stressed that his top campaign pledge should not be dismissed in Albany, saying there’s an urgency in the city to help the middle class.
“We know we have to rebuild the middle class with a different set of tools than were necessary in the past,” he said. “And we have the methodology; we have the way of doing it right before our faces. It will take courage, it will take will, it will take focus.”
Cuomo may seek to fund at least a portion of pre-k through the budget, which will be released Jan. 21.
But de Blasio said the pre-k cost would be about $530 million a year, and, “We need the reliability and the constancy that this tax would provide.”
He said he spoke with Cuomo yesterday.