De Blasio Responds to Cuomo’s ‘Repugnant’ Charge Against His Pre-K Funding Plan

Andrew Cuomo and Bill de Blasio. (Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty)

Andrew Cuomo and Bill de Blasio. (Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty)

The verbal slugfest between Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio over pre-K funding escalated today, with Mr. Cuomo calling the logical extension of the mayor’s position “repugnant” and Mr. de Blasio insisting his tax-the-rich funding scheme is the city’s only viable option.

During a press conference today, Mr. Cuomo defended his opposition to the mayor’s plan, arguing that not all cities have enough millionaires to support full pre-K programs via a de Blasio-esque tax on high income earners.

“How should you pay for it? ‘Maybe we should let the richer districts have their own and then the poorer districts finance their own.’ No! That’s the exact opposite [of what it should be]. That’s repugnant to the whole equity argument. It should be statewide. Let the state pay,” Mr. Cuomo told reporters in Albany.

The governor stressed that kids across the state deserve pre-K, not just those in the five boroughs who would be served by Mr. de Blasio’s proposed tax.

“It’s very simple: We want a statewide pre-K program. Why? Because the children of New York City are very important. You know what else? The children of Nassau are very important. And the children of Buffalo are very important. And the children of Binghamton are very important. So we want a statewide pre-K program,” he said. “That’s why the state has been working on it for 15 years. That’s why I talked about it in the State of the State last year. We want a statewide pre-K program.”

But Mr. de Blasio, speaking to reporters at his first budget hearing, rejected the governor’s premise and doubled down on his plan.

The mayor insisted he cared “deeply for out fellow citizens all over the state,“ but that the city was in a unique spot. “We’re in a position to get these here and now with our resources. And by the way, the children we will reach are among the poorest in the United States, let’s be clear,” he said. “We have vast needs here that must be addressed. If we don’t address them, it holds back the city of New York. It holds back the State of New York. So we’re convinced this is the way forward.”

Mr. de Blasio, who has called the state’s plan too vague and unreliable for a long-term effort, further claimed that Albany is the only thing setting New York City back on its push for a full universal pre-K program.

“We’re on the runway ready to take off right now. The engine’s are revving and we’re ready to go,” he continued.  “If there’s going to be a discussion about pre-K and the future of pre-K and the future of after school, it has to come with real facts and figures and numbers and a plan. And we’ve presented a plan and that’s the only plan on the table right now that would actually achieve this.”