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De Blasio's Pre-K Tax Plan to Test Relationship with Cuomo

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Mayor Bill de Blasio campaigned on promising universal, full-day pre-kindergarten, and he wants to tax the wealthy to pay for it, but the plan faces a head-on collision with Governor Andrew Cuomo is proposing: to cut taxes for New Yorkers. NY1's Zack Fink filed the following report.

With Governor Andrew Cuomo sharing the stage just behind him on Inauguration Day, Mayor Bill de Blasio trumpeted his plan for the wealthy to pay more to fund pre-kindergarten. He even put a price tag on it: roughly $973 in additional taxes per year for the average family making more than $500,000.

"That's less than $3 a day, about the cost of a small soy latte at your local Starbucks," de Blasio said.

New taxes, however, are not on the Cuomo agenda. The governor is now in his re-election year, and his hand-picked tax commission recently announced plans for tax cuts, not any increases.

"They both have very strong points of view, and Andrew Cuomo has laid down a line in the sand for 2014, no tax increases, and Bill de Blasio got elected on a promise to raise taxes on the wealthy to fund pre-k," said Stephen Sigmund, a political consultant. "So there's a tension there."

De Blasio and Cuomo have a solid relationship. De Blasio once worked for Cuomo in Washington, and both are close to the Clintons.

Some anticipate a compromise.

"It's not just about the funding. It's about figuring out where to put the seats, where we have access in the right neighborhoods, the creation of different classrooms. All of that has to be taken into consideration," said Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers. "I know everybody thinks the sexy part is, do we tax the millionaires of New York City or not, but that's just the funding source."

While Cuomo has downplayed any disagreement, de Blasio has only dug in.

"This is a five-year plan. It has to be sustained," he said. "We need all of the resources that we've asked for in order to sustain it, and the only way to do that is with a very specific and dedicated tax on those who make a half million or more. That's our mission, and I am committed to it."

"There is always going to be a fight for the big dog, particularly when you have a governor and a mayor of the same party," Sigmund said.

Whatever the dynamic was between Cuomo and de Blasio, it likely shifted this week when de Blasio was sworn in as mayor. The critical period to get the pre-k plan done is between now and the end of March, when the state budget is due.

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