De Blasio, Silver back NYC pre-kindergarten, tax

By Michael Virtanen

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 8 2014 11:11 a.m. MST

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, left, and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, walk in a hallway at the Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014, in Albany, N.Y. De Blasio is in Albany for Gov. Andrew Cuomo's State of the State address.

Mike Groll, Associated Press

ALBANY, N.Y. — New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver promised Wednesday to jointly push the new mayor's proposal for universal pre-kindergarten supported by city authority to tax the wealthy. They're also advocating Silver's proposal to provide college financial aid to New York's immigrants.

After meeting for an hour Wednesday ahead of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's State of the State address, the two Democratic leaders endorsed those priorities.

The nursery school plan for all students in the city, plus after-school programs for all middle schools, would cost $530 million a year for five years, de Blasio said.

"It has to be reliable. A tax on people who make a half-million or more is a fair and reliable and we want to get it done," the mayor said. "We're simply asking for the right to raise our own revenue."

Silver said they agree on many things, including the city's ability to fund its own education system by taxing, as every other school district can through property taxes without coming to Albany for authorization. "New York City has come and asked us to give them the authorization for a personal income tax. ... We should give the mayor what he asks for."

De Blasio promised to do whatever he can to help the Assembly leader pass the so-called Dream Act for immigrants. "I can certainly say on behalf of the people of New York City that passing the Dream Act would make a huge impact on families in New York City and is the right thing to do," he said

Cuomo said Monday he agrees with de Blasio on the goal of universal all-day pre-kindergarten programs but said it should be voluntary, not compulsory, and questions remain about funding, which will be part of a broader conversation with state legislators and city officials about overall programs and funding. The governor said, "The question comes: How do we pay for it?"

About 350 or half the school districts outside New York City have some sort of pre-kindergarten programs, according to New York State United Teachers.

Asked about also authorizing the city to set its own minimum wage, higher than the state's $8 an hour, something some West Coast cities have done, Silver said it's a totally different issue from schools and taxing. "It's something we might consider," he said.

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