Cuomo likes de Blasio’s pre-K goal, not de Blasio’s pre-K tax

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Reporters bombarded Governor Andrew Cuomo today with questions about Bill de Blasio and his plan to tax the rich to pay for universal pre-Kindergarten.

The tax hike, the centerpiece of de Blasio's campaign for mayor, requires Albany approval. But next year is an election year for both the governor and the legislature, and aside from Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver, none of the so-called three men in a room have expressed support for the measure.

A week ago in an interview with the Daily News, Cuomo all but ruled out the possibility of going along with the tax hike, and when de Blasio suggested Cuomo hadn't, the governor's press office declined to support him. 

Today, following a press conference about tourism, reporters asked the governor to clarify his position, for the record.

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He didn't, quite.

What should New Yorkers know about the likelihood of Bill de Blasio's tax and pre-K proposal?

"You're putting together two concepts, OK?" said Cuomo. "In terms of raising taxes, my philosophy has been over the past three years that I've been elected governor, I believe we're more competitive economically if we're reducing taxes. And I've been working very hard to reduce taxes."

He's also reduced spending, he said.

"That signal has gone to business," he went on. "And I believe the economy is coming back based in part on that platform."

"What I said to Bill de Blasio, who I know for many years. ... I said that that's my philosophy, which he knows. If he wins as mayor, that is a very important position. I said when he comes up with his governmental plans, he should come to Albany, present the plans to the legislative leaders and myself. Let's discuss it and let's talk it through. I'm not really interested in debating in the middle of a campaign a plan because you have campaign plans and then there are government plans. And I'd rather have a serious, sober conversation without the back-and-the forth of a campaign. Now, that's on taxes. Pre-K, universal pre-K, I support."

But don't voters deliberating on de Blasio and his signature campaign pledge deserve a bit more guidance about the viability of that pledge?

"He's put forth a financing plan which is a tax increase," said Cuomo. "That is an option to fund universal pre-K. I put forth universal pre-K last year and we're moving in that direction. I obviously didn't pay for it with a tax increase. So, this is the conversation that has to be had. ... I am against tax increases. That's my position."

How would he finance it without a tax increase?

"The answer is not always 'I need more money,'" he said. "You know, that attitude got New York State into trouble in the first place. It always has to be more money. The state budget is $137 billion. The city's budget is tens of billions of dollars. Sometimes the question is, let's be more creative with the money that we're now spending."

Will people leave New York City, which the mayor has described as a luxury product, if taxes go up any higher?

"Well that is the question," he said. "People do leave. We know that. And the question is, how much are people willing to pay for that luxury and is there a point at which they say, 'I don't want to pay for the luxury, I'm going to move somewhere else.'"