“Success is a journey not a destination. The doing is usually more important than the outcome.” – Arthur Ashe
Gov. Cuomo has reportedly found a way to pay for Mayor de Blasio’s plan to bring universal pre-K to New York City schools without having to raise taxes on the city’s wealthiest residents. Problem solved? Hardly.
Team de Blasio has insisted that whatever funding stream used to pay for the program is – to use budget-speak -- recurring. That means if some magical bucket of money is found by Cuomo this year for pre-K in New York City, that won’t be acceptable to City Hall unless Cuomo can guarantee that the money will be there every year in the future. For the city, the program is estimated to cost a hefty $439 million a year so it seems difficult to imagine that such an ironclad promise can be made by the governor. (And it could cost $4 billion a year to fund the program for the entire state.)
Two people close to de Blasio have told me that the mayor believes it’s important to raise taxes on the city’s wealthiest residents regardless of the pre-K fight. Social justice is the new mantra in City Hall and the easiest way to look like you’re bridging the income gap is by raising taxes on millionaires. In his inaugural speech, de Blasio pulled a reverse Ronald Reagan on the rich by noting that the average increase for the wealthy would be $973 a year – “ less than $3 a day, about the cost of a small soy latte at your local Starbucks.” Taking on the soy latte kings might be cute rhetoric but there are plenty of families in New York City making $500,000 a year who are still carefully watching their wallets.
At some point, de Blasio is going to have to decide whether all the fun of the journey of getting to fund pre-K is any fun at all. It seems highly unlikely that the tax-slashing Cuomo is going to be signing off on a tax hike in New York City in an election year. And regardless of taxes, Cuomo will always want to be the Alpha Democratic Dog on New York’s streets. It’s only his second week in office and de Blasio may already be getting a political headache. But there are worse problems than having someone offer to pay for universal pre-K. The mayor may just have to take the money and run.