Mayor Bill de Blasio is trying to capitalize on testimony from the state's top education official, who said that paying for universal pre-kindergarten in New York will cost much more than Governor Andrew Cuomo is proposing to spend.
Mayor Bill de Blasio says his proposal to tax the wealthy to pay for universal pre-k in New York City is getting a boost from a somewhat unlikely source: the state's top education official.
New York State Education Commissioner John King testified in Albany on Tuesday that it will cost the state about $1.6 billion to pay for universal pre-k. That estimate put him at odds with Governor Andrew Cuomo, who has proposed spending just $300 million a year on pre-k statewide.
"Ultimately, if you want to get to true universality, you're probably talking on the order of $1.6 billion a year," King said Tuesday
"It's obvious from Commissioner King's analysis that our plan is actually dealing with real numbers," de Blasio said. "I think it's really important to be straightforward with people about how much things cost, and that there would have been no way to achieve this kind of progress in education without a dedicated tax."
De Blasio is talking about spending $340 million a year on pre-k just in New York City, and he wants to tax wealthy New Yorkers to pay for the program. The tax hike needs state approval, and Cuomo is no fan of the plan. He has said that he will pay for pre-kindergarten in the five boroughs with state funding, but the mayor has been cool to the offer.
"You can't start this program up for a year and then have it stall. It's just unacceptable," de Blasio said.
Cuomo on Tuesday tried to downplay the discrepancy between his own numbers and the state education commissioner's.
"When it comes to what pre-k cost statewide, these are all guess-timates by everyone, because nobody really knows," Cuomo said.
The mayor, meanwhile, is ramping up his campaign to get his pre-k tax through Albany. A dozen new business and civic leaders have signed on to support the plan.