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Schools Chancellor Requests Tax Support for Universal Pre-K in Albany

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In an attempt to win support for universal pre-K, Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña traveled to Albany on Tuesday to ask lawmakers for a dedicated tax on the wealthy to fund the program. Zack Fink followed the following report.

ALBANY - In making the case for a dedicated tax on the wealthy to fund universal pre-K, Carmen Fariña was polite, but dismissive of Governor Andrew Cuomo's alternative funding mechanism.

"The governor's proposed budget outlines a plan to use state funds to pay for statewide full day pre-K programs. But this plan falls short of what it would be required to make universal high quality full day pre-K a reality in New York City," said Fariña.

Fariña was appointed by Mayor de Blasio who made the same case for the tax before the committee Monday. But she faced a little more skepticism from Senate Republicans.

"The ability to direct resources, not wait until September, but the ability to direct resources right now certainly is within your authority, the mayor's authority. The city of New York has a $70 billion budget," said Senator Jack Martins, a Republican from Long Island.

"In order to do this right it has to be an add on rather than a subtract. Like I said, as a principal I would have to take something out of the rest of my school," said Fariña.

But it wasn't just the Republicans who questioned the need for the tax.

"There is extra money then instead of being determined, it almost seems like it's become the 11th commandment to tax, tax just because we have to tax," said Senator Simcha Felder, a Democrat from Brooklyn.

"We are saying specifically why we need this revenue, why we need this income stream, and it is a very, very small marginal amount to ask the very wealthiest New Yorkers. It is not about the tax," said Dean Feulihan, City Budget Director.

Earlier in the day, State Education Commissioner John King testified that Cuomo's statewide pre-K funding plan would cost much more than he proposed in his state budget.

According to one Albany insider, by releasing a figure of how much his plan to fund universal pre-K would cost, de blasio has made it easier for lawmakers to meet the need with state resources, which would render the tax unnecessary.

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