Black lawmakers push mayor’s pre-K plan, get chatted up by Cuomo

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Members of New York's Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus push for pre-K funding in New York City. (JIm)
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ALBANY—Two dozen Democratic state legislators on Tuesday called for passage of Bill de Blasio's universal pre-K plan, just after they spoke with the mayor on a conference call and before several were called into an impromptu meeting with Andrew Cuomo.

Led by Assemblyman Karim Camara, chair of the Black, Puerto Rican Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus, the lawmakers pushed for approval of an Assembly bill that would enact de Blasio's plan, which calls for a tax on high-earning city residents. 

On a conference call with participating caucus members before the press conference, de Blasio thanked them for their support and urged them on in their fight, the legislators said.

“We as a Caucus are excited about the agenda he's laid forth, particularly in regard to universal pre-K,” said Camara, a Brooklyn Democrat. “This is the beginning.”

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The legislators—including some from beyond the five boroughs—said that moving ahead now with the city proposal would lay the groundwork for statewide pre-K, which Cuomo presented as a goal during his State of the State presentation last week without saying how he intended to pay for it. Cuomo, whose election-year agenda is focused on job creation and tax cuts, hasn't taken an official position on the de Blasio plan, but he indicated early on that he won't go along with the tax portion of de Blasio's proposal. 

Assemblyman Luis Sepulveda, a Bronx Democrat who carries the de Blasio-aligned bill, said he has not yet received a commitment that it will advance in the Assembly.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, speaking after an education rally, said it was “premature” to consider the measure before a home-rule message has been approved by the the New York City Council.

Camara and several other legislators—including Sen. Ruth Hassell-Thompson and Assemblyman Denny Farrell—then met with Cuomo at the Capitol for an unscheduled gathering where the governor, among other things, reiterated his support for a statewide pre-K system. One attendee said it was a “broad conversation” about the governor's agenda, but pre-K became a focus, and that Cuomo stressed how Democrats in the Assembly have long been leaders on the issue.

A spokesman for Cuomo declined to comment on the meeting.