Mayor Bill de Blasio today doubled down on his signature plan to tax the rich to fund universal pre-K, even as Gov. Andrew Cuomo is expected to roll out an alternative funding stream in his annual budget address this afternoon.
Taking questions after a press conference announcing two new appointments, Mr. de Blasio said he would continue to push for his tax increase, even if the governor provides all the money the mayor says he needs through an alternate funding stream.
According to a Daily News report published this morning, Mr. Cuomo will announce plans to dedicate $1.5 billion over the next five years to make pre-K available in every school district across the state. He is also expected to propose using another $720 million in revenues generated by new casinos to fund after-school programs–theoretically eliminating the need for Mr. de Blasio’s proposed tax on city residents earning more than $500,000 a year–if enough of that sum is dedicated to the city.
But while Mr. de Blasio praised Mr. Cuomo’s expected proposal as “important” and “commendable” because it adds additional resources to early childhood education, he insisted it was fundamentally different from his plan.
“What we intend to do is create a stable, consistent, reliable funding mechanism for the next five years that will allow us to have full-day pre-K for every child and after-school programs for every middle school child who needs it,” he said. “So we’re going to put forward a proposal that we know will serve the best interests of the children of our city.”
Peppered with repeated questions about the plan, Mr. de Blasio held his ground, though with noticeably less fire than he has previously.
“We think it’s fair and appropriate to ask those in New York City who’ve done a little to pay a little more,” he said, arguing that added money could be used for other causes. “We have a revenue source available that is reliable and we believe it is a matter of the rights of this city … that we should be able to proceed with that to create the programs that people in this city voted for and do it on a reliable basis.”
“People in this city want it and they made that abundantly clear. And the voice of the people matters in this equation,” he later added, stressing the plan’s “exceedingly consistent popular support. It was arguably the No. 1 proposal I put forward in an election that I won with 73 percent of the vote. 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.”
Mr. Cuomo’s plan would provide the city more than the $340 million Mr. de Blasio hopes to raise from the tax to fund universal pre-K, according to a source quoted by the Wall Street Journal. But the mayor refused to even entertain a Plan B.
“I’ve always said I don’t bargain against myself. I have a mission. The people of this city have given me a mission, they’ve entrusted me with a mission to achieve this plan. I don’t worry about inside baseball. I don’t worry about political prognostications,” he said. “I have a mandate from the people to pursue this plan. I’m going to pursue this plan.”