Mayor Bill de Blasio today brushed aside suggestions that his win on pre-K was anything but a slam dunk, insisting the budget deal struck by Albany lawmakers this weekend was nothing but good news for the city and his agenda.
Mr. de Blasio had maintained for weeks that the only “reliable” way to pay for universal pre-K across the city was a dedicated tax hike on the city’s highest-income earners over the next five years–repeatedly telling reporters that he had no “Plan B” even when asked whether he would accept an equivalent sum.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo and State Senate, however, balked at the idea of raising taxes in an election year and chose to give Mr. de Blasio nearly as much as he’d asked for in state funds instead, paving the way for expanded pre-K, beginning in September.
Asked today whether the revenue stream from the infamously fickle state legislature was sufficient and whether he was disappointed, Mr. de Blasio argued he had no reason to do anything but celebrate.
“Well, [what] I said many, many times is we need reliable funding for five years at the dollar figure we have set. What have we gotten? Reliable funding for five years at the dollar figure we set. It’s as simple as that,” he told reporters, before throwing the first pitch at the Mets season opener this afternoon.
“I’m very proud of everyone here who fought for a year-and-a-half to achieve this. And it is no accident that because people fought so intensely and would not compromise on the goal that we are now able to achieve the goal,” he added. “It’s not a one-year plan. It’s a five-year plan. It’s not a little bit of what we wanted. It’s the total dollar figure. So I think it’s a huge step forward.”
Mr. de Blasio went on to acknowledge that he would need to continue to hold Albany to its commitment each year, but said he was confident that lawmakers would deliver.
“The fact that all of the players involved–the governor, the Senate, Assembly–affirmed a five-year version of this dollar figure and put real money in right now so we can have tens of thousands more kids getting full-day pre-K this September, after school programs this September,” he said. “The proof is in the pudding. This happening now. The progress is real. And so we’ve achieved the goal.”
Mr. de Blasio further insisted that he’d emerged victorious in his fight to expand after-school programs for middle school students, which also would have been paid for with the tax, despite the fact that the budget contains no dedicated revenue stream for the city. Instead the expanded after-school programs will be funded from a combination of yet-to-be-realized casino funds and capital dollars.
“Although there is certainly some analysis still going on about the budget–it’s a very complicated document–I think what we can broadly say is there is a very substantial commitment statewide for after school,” said Mr. de Blasio. “We feel that we’ll do very well in terms of getting our fair share of those resources. And it’s going to allow us to move forward in the way we’ve envisioned.