De Blasio resists ‘half measure’ on pre-K

Bill de Blasio. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
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Bill de Blasio is pledging to persist with a plan to fund universal pre-K with a tax hike on high earners, even as Andrew Cuomo looks for a way to address the demand for pre-K without the tax.

De Blasio declined to comment on what he would do if Cuomo funded pre-K without the proposed tax hike, saying he would not accept media reports as government edicts and would not comment until he was informed of the plan directly by Cuomo.

(Cuomo declined to go into detail about his plan at a press conference today, but denied a Capital report that he's going to address pre-K funding in his upcoming State of the State speech.)

When asked if he would insist on a tax hike even if Cuomo found space for pre-K in the state budget, de Blasio said, "We will not bargain against ourselves or water down our goal. We don't want half measures or partial funding."

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De Blasio called Cuomo an "ally and a friend," but indicated the key difference between the state and city plans for pre-K was the immediacy embedded into his plan.

"The governor has made a very clear commitment to pre-K and I commend him for it," de Blasio said. "That is different from reaching every child in New York City here and now. We don't want a phase-in. We don't want a someday," he said.

De Blasio also drew daylight between the state and city's taxing plans in general, saying Cuomo "has a vision for state taxes and I respect that vision," but adding, "we are talking about the ability of the people of New York City to tax ourselves."

The mayor added that he had spoken with many wealthy people who have given the tax increase their support.

"We're asking this of the wealthy because there are too many working parents in this city today who have to go through the challenge of not knowing their kids are safe and secure while they're at work," he said. 

De Blasio assembled a lineup of key labor leaders to express their support for universal pre-K and particularly for the accompanying planned tax.

"Taxes reflect the values we have," said Peter Ward, president of the Hotel and Motel Trades Council. "What we're going to be saying to our legislators in Albany is, pass a law that creates a tax that reflects our collective value that children come first."

United Federation of Teachers president Michael Mulgrew said passing the tax hike to implement pre-K will be "a big political lift," but added after years of the promise of universal pre-K, "we are at a moment in time when we can actually get it done."

Capital reported last week that the U.F.T had decided to support the pre-K plan and tax. 

Leaders from the AFL-CIO, 1199 SEIU, 32BJ, Building and Construction Trades Council and Teamsters Council 16, among other labor leaders, also attended Monday's press conference, which was held in an early learning center in East Harlem.

De Blasio denied that the press conference was planned for Monday morning (and began 45 minutes late) in order to coincide with Cuomo's press conference.