Bill de Blasio Says Thanks but No Thanks to State Pre-K Funding

Mayor Bill de Blasio today dismissed a report that Gov. Andrew Cuomo is planning to propose an alternate funding stream

Bill de Blasio and labor leaders pressing the mayor's signature pre-k plan.
Bill de Blasio and labor leaders pressing the mayor’s signature pre-k plan.

Mayor Bill de Blasio today dismissed a report that Gov. Andrew Cuomo is planning to propose an alternate funding stream for Mr. de Blasio’s signature universal pre-K tax plan, and said any extra money in the state budget should be spent on other things.

Last night, Capital New York reported that Mr. Cuomo is set to unveil the alternative plan in his annual State of the State address Wednesday. But speaking this morning to reporters at a press conference rolling out labor support for the plan, Mr. de Blasio wouldn’t hedge on his plans.

“With all due respect to my colleagues in the media, we don’t accept reports in the media as the same as what the governor is going to say. The governor has not said that to me. We have no verification that that’s what he’s going to propose, so I’m not gonna comment on anything until I hear from the governor and his team what their intentions are,” he said.

Mr. de Blasio went on to suggest that, even if the governor offered him $530 million in dedicated state funding, he would continue to press for a five-year tax on high-income earners to fund his plan to provide full day pre-K for all city kids and after-school programs to all middle schoolers.

“You guys have asked this now, this is probably the 412th time, a variation on the theme. I wanna go over this again: We have a goal. We believe in this goal. We believe it’s the right thing to do. We are sticking to this goal. We’re not going to bargain against ourselves,” he insisted. “We’re not going to water down on some of this. There’s a very specific reason why.”

“This is dedicated funding for five years. We don’t want to do this year-by-year. We don’t want half-measures, we don’t want partial funding,” he added. “And we believe this is a fair and just way to do it. And if there’s other resources available in Albany, I assure you we have plenty of other needs for them, in our schools and beyond.”

Mr. de Blasio continued to be pressed, however. One reporter, the New York Time’s Michael Grynbaum, asked why he felt tax revenues–which can change year-by-year–were a more reliable funding stream than a dedicated budget allocation.

“Have you ever been in the government, Michael?” the mayor responded rhetorically. “When the budget cuts come, children are often the first to take the hit. The vulnerable take the hit,” he said, doubling down on his argument that a tax would be more reliable.

“We know the history. We know that if it is not protected, it will be fought each and every year. And that’s not good, that’s not healthy for our children. Again, if the state has additional resources,” he insisted. “There are any other appropriate things that need to be addressed, things that New York City has been waiting for for a long time.”

Meanwhile, up in Albany, Mr. Cuomo, taking questions after a competing press conference touting initiatives to lower taxes upstate, said he did not plan to talk about pre-K funding during his State of the State address. But his language implied he remains not fully on board with Mr. de Blasio’s tax-the-rich plan.

“First, decide what you want to do,” Mr. Cuomo said, describing the funding question as part of a “two-step process, in government and in life.” “And step two is decide how you are going to do it. I think we’re on step one, which is I’m in agreement with the mayor that pre-K is the direction that this state has to head.”
“I believe we’ll get there on the goal” of universal pre-K, Mr. Cuomo continued vaguely. “Once we get there on the goal the question becomes how do we pay for it. And that’s going to be a conversation with the Legislature when everything else is on the table.”
With reporting by Colin Campbell.
Bill de Blasio Says Thanks but No Thanks to State Pre-K Funding