Political Arena

Klein bucks Cuomo on pre-K tax


While Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposed budget includes universal preschool without any tax increase, State Senate Co-Majority Leader Jeff Klein is pushing to let localities decide whether to raise taxes for their pre-K programs. In doing so, he is supporting Mayor Bill de Blasio’s proposal to fund universal pre-K through a tax hike on the city’s wealthiest residents.

“The mayor’s plan deserves consistent, stable funding,” Mr. Klein said in a phone interview. “I’m going to do everything in my power to help Mayor de Blasio achieve that.”

Mr. de Blasio travelled to Albany on Monday to ask legislators to let New York City decide for itself whether to raise a tax for universal pre-K. Mr. de Blasio wants to tax people earning more than $500,000 a year, although Mr. Cuomo’s budget proposal allocates $1.5 billion in state funds to five years of pre-school for every child in the state.

“I do believe that we have to allow local governments the opportunity to at least present the case on why they want to raise taxes locally,” Mr. Klein said.

New details of Mr. de Blasio’s case came out on Monday, with the mayor saying a city budget surplus of $2.5 billion should go to new agreements with unions representing police and teachers, who have not had contracts in four years.

Mr. de Blasio also promised the city will provide quality, full-day pre-K to 53,604 students starting in September of this year, with the number jumping to 73,250 spots in the 2015-2016 school year.

While demand for pre-K has long surpassed the number of available spots, especially in the northwest Bronx, Mr. Klein attributed the problem to a lack of steady funding.

“We have a tremendous opportunity and I want to make sure we succeed,” the senator said of pre-K in New York City.

State Senator Adriano Espaillat, whose 31st district includes Marble Hill, seemed to back Mr. Klein’s stance.

“It’s time to give our city the tools it needs to fight inequality and ensure all kids have the opportunity to succeed,” Mr. Espaillat said in a statement. “But Upper Manhattan and Bronx communities can’t sit back and hope the push for universal pre-K reaches us — we have to speak out about the dire need for this service in our region.”

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