Mayor Bill de Blasio traveled to Albany on Monday, where he offered details of his plan to fund universal pre-Kindergarten while hoping to get the approval of lawmakers to raise taxes on the wealthy to pay for it. The mayor and the governor remain far apart on the issue, but the leaders tried to find common ground elsewhere. Zack Fink filed the following report.
ALBANY - Arriving 20 minutes late to speak before a joint budget committee, Mayor Bill de Blasio was peppered by questions for more than two hours about his plan to fund universal pre-kindergarten in New York City.
"The city's right to self-determination, to setting and carrying out our own priorities, should be honored in Albany," de Blasio said. "Universal pre-k and after-school programs must have a dedicated funding stream, a lock box, shielded from what we all know is the inevitable give and take of the budgeting process."
The mayor's plan differs from the governor's, which would also provide universal pre-K, but on a statewide basis and without a tax. The governor downplayed his disagreement with the new mayor.
"You will have differences,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said.
De Blasio also answered critics who say he is pushing for a tax on the wealthy no matter what.
"We don't want to punish to wealthy for their success. We want to create more success stories. This is about the children of New York,” de Blasio said.
Despite being far apart on pre-K funding, the governor and the mayor made a point of holding a joint news conference to emphasize how united they are on another issue. Both are taking on the federal government over a Medicaid waiver.
"We are united as the governor said. We are united in our plea to the federal government to do the right thing for New York,” de Blasio said.
Cuomo is asking the federal government for a $10 billion Medicaid waiver so the state can reallocate financial resources and save two ailing Brooklyn hospitals. Interfaith Medical Center in Crown Heights and Long Island College Hospital in Cobble Hill are in difficult financial conditions.
De Blasio has long advocated for keeping them open. In fact, he's been suing the Cuomo administration.
However, as the pair wanted to make clear on Monday, just because they have had differences, they are getting along.
"If HHS does nothing, we cannot continue to hold up these hospitals. And you will see hospitals close. And you will see hospitals closed and jobs lost and communities hurt,” said Cuomo.
The federal government responded to the request, saying the waiver New York is seeking cannot be used to fund the hospitals.