Mayor Dinkins Suggests a Different Tax Plan for de Blasio

Bill de Blasio speaking at Columbia today.

Bill de Blasio speaking at Columbia University earlier today.

Ex-Mayor David Dinkins today advised his former aide, Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio, to consider pushing to renew the commuter tax instead of his signature campaign plan to boost taxes on the rich to fund universal pre-K, arguing the former would be more palatable to Albany lawmakers.

Mr. de Blasio had just finished a sweeping speech to experts and advocates at Columbia University touting his early childhood education plan–his first major address since his election–when a moderator turned to Mr. Dinkins, who was in attendance, to ask a question.

“I know how difficult it’s going to be to fight Albany to get a tax on the wealthy folks to solve this problem. But I have a suggestion that I would offer for your consideration,” began Mr. Dinkins, whose head was projected behind Mr. de Blasio on a screen.

He then floated the idea of bringing back the tax, which would apply to people who work in the city, but reside elsewhere. “See whether or not this might be more easily done than putting a tax on the wealthy to take care of the rest of us,” he suggested. “I think we might have more success with the other.”

But Mr. de Blasio, missing barely a beat, quickly defended his plan, noting his three predecessors had managed to sell lawmakers on signature plans. “We have three mayors in a row–dare I say very different people–different times, different parties. Mayor Bloomberg was in several different parties along the way,” he joked.

“I take your point to heart,” he told his former boss, “but I think in the here and now, this is the right path and the attainable path … I think we’re going to have the support we need to get it done.”

During his remarks, Mr. de Blasio argued that, after years of fighting for more after-school and childcare programs as public advocate and councilman, he now had a “clear mandate” to address the problem.

“We have to address inequality … If we don’t, it will be at our peril,” he told the group, stressing the role of education. “Our city will rise or fall based on our public schools … I have not offered a small, Band-Aid solution. I haven’t offered a pilot program or a boutique concept. I have offered a game-changing investment in early childhood education and after-school. Nothing else we do.”

Later, at a press conference with reporters, Mr. de Blasio played down Mr. Dinkins skepticism, and against expressed confidence that a “Plan B” was unnecessary.

“I think in all of my life I’m always an open person. But I think a leader leads. And I’m convinced this is the best way to get this done. I think it’s a fair way to get it done. I think it’s an available way to get done. I think it’s a fast way to get it done,” he said.