Dear Commons Community,
Governor Andrew Cuomo unveiled the state’s budget yesterday and the main new initiative is a proposal for all-day, pre-K for all school districts in New York State. This is welcome news. However, it appears that how this proposal is funded will set up a confrontation between the Governor and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio who made universal pre-K a critical part of his campaign platform. Under the Governor’s plan, universal pre-K will be paid from general state revenues; de Blasio’s plan calls for a tax on the richest New Yorkers. As reported in the New York Times, this will not be resolved easily since Cuomo has promised no new taxes and de Blasio feels that he has a mandate given his huge victory in November. Here is the New York Times take on the issue:
“Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Tuesday unveiled a budget plan containing a glittering prize for Mayor Bill de Blasio: money for the prekindergarten classes that he had made a centerpiece of his insurgent bid for mayor.
Mr. de Blasio sent back a calm, but firm message: Not good enough.
It was the latest twist in a battle that has captivated New York politics, with consequences that could reach far beyond the issue of childhood education, and a clear signal that the tension between the state’s two most powerful Democrats is not likely to abate any time soon.
Mr. Cuomo, a centrist accustomed to governing by the art of the possible, is confronting a new challenge in the form of Mr. de Blasio, a staunch liberal who has channeled the impatience of a national left fed up with leaders who trade ideology for compromise.
The mayor electrified liberals with his campaign promise to provide prekindergarten classes in New York City by raising taxes on wealthy residents. The governor, facing re-election in the fall, has repeatedly pledged to reduce taxes this year.
The two men, whose relationship dates back to the Clinton administration, were widely expected to agree on a middle ground. But Mr. de Blasio rebuffed that approach on Tuesday when he said that Mr. Cuomo’s counteroffer — $1.5 billion over five years for a statewide program, but no tax surcharge — would not meet his needs.
“The people in the city have given me a mission,” the mayor declared at a City Hall news conference, saying that the governor’s willingness to embrace a prekindergarten program was “encouraging,” but “different than what we intend to do.”
A tax on the wealthy, Mr. de Blasio said, “was the No. 1 proposal I put forward in an election that I won with 73 percent of the vote.”
Pausing for effect, he added, “I think the jury is in.”
Such a rebuke to Mr. Cuomo is highly unusual in a state whose governor has long been seen as the unrivaled master of deal-making.”
We shall see who prevails but the happy news is that it looks like New York toddlers will have full-day, pre-K soon.