‘The State Will Be Proud to Pay for It': Cuomo Unveils Pre-K Plan Without de Blasio’s Tax

Andrew Cuomo giving the pre-K part of his budget address.

Andrew Cuomo giving the pre-K part of his budget address.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo drew the next line in the sand over funding universal prekindergarten in his 2014 budget address today, side-stepping Mayor Bill de Blasio’s signature tax-the-rich plan.

Mr. de Blasio, of course, made the expansion of universal pre-K his signature campaign issue, which was tied to a tax on the city’s highest-income earners. But such a tax requires approval from Albany and Mr. Cuomo made it clear today he is not on board by proposing an alternate funding mechanism.

Indeed, Mr. Cuomo didn’t even mention Mr. de Blasio by name as he formally rolled out the plan as part of his annual budget address, glossing over the mayor’s political activity–which includes a full-fledged “grassroots” campaign to mobilize supporters–and focusing on previous efforts at the state level.

“The state has long believed in pre-K. The New York State Assembly championed it for years early on. The Legislature passed it in 1997 and Gov. George Pataki signed it into law. I called for the expansion of pre-K last year in the State of the State and the budget implemented it. This year let’s take it another step forward. This year we proposed universal full-day pre-K statewide–period,” declared the governor.

As for the funding, Mr. Cuomo declared assertively that “the state will be proud to pay for it.”

“How do you pay for it?” he asked. “The state will pay for it and the state will be proud to pay for it. It’s a priority. We believe in children. We believe in pre-K. We believe in education. Let’s put our money where our mouth is and let’s make it a reality. This budget includes a fully-funded, five-year plan to cover the additional costs of full-day pre-K across the state.”

He dedicated $1.5 billion over the next five years to fund the expansion across the state.

But Mr. de Blasio does not appear like he’s ready to back down. Before the address, Mr. de Blasio doubled down on the tax-the-rich component of his plan, which he and some advocates argue will feature more reliable funding than the governor’s plan.

“It was arguably the No. 1 proposal I put forward in an election that I won with 73 percent of the vote,” Mr. de Blasio said today. “I think the jury has come back. I think the jury is in. The people believe in this idea, they want it and they want it to actually happen.”

It will now be up to the state legislature to hammer out a plan.