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Queens Chronicle

Skelos won’t allow vote on pre-K tax

Senate co-leader puts cold water on de Blasio plan, but Klein backs it

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Posted: Thursday, February 13, 2014 2:00 am | Updated: 11:22 am, Thu Feb 20, 2014.

State Senate Co-Leader Dean Skelos (R-Nassau) said he won’t allow a vote on Mayor de Blasio’s request to permit New York City to raise its taxes on residents with incomes over $500,000 a year to fund universal pre-kindergarten in the city.

“This isn’t just a home-rule issue,” Skelos told reporters Monday. “It infected the entire state in terms of revenues, in terms of the finance industry. The last thing we need to see is high earners leave New York State.”

Gov. Cuomo, who has rolled out his own plan for pre-K statewide without any tax increases, has been cold to the mayor’s proposal. De Blasio has said Cuomo’s plan is not good enough, in part because the city would be fighting for funds with the rest of the state and it would take longer to implement than his own. De Blasio wants to start pre-K in the city this year while Cuomo’s could take several years to roll out.

Skelos’ co-leader, state Sen. Jeff Klein (D-Bronx), supports de Blasio’s plan. Skelos and Klein share power in a coalition between the minority Republican Caucus and the Independent Democratic Caucus — a group of four breakaway Democrats. Neither leader has the ability to bring legislation to the floor without the other’s approval. Klein has said he would consider holding up the state budget if it didn’t include de Blasio’s request, but reneged on that Tuesday.

“Mayor de Blasio’s plan is the only one that provides New York City with the funding it needs to achieve that goal,” Klein said Monday. “Senate Republicans comprise a minority in this chamber. They want more support for business tax cuts and we want more support for our kids. Only by working together can we achieve a balance that works for everyone.”

The Senate’s makeup is complicated. Two seats are vacant: one on Long Island where a Republican senator recently resigned; the other, the former seat of Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams. With the two vacancies, Democrats hold a nominal 31-30 majority when including the four Independent Democrats and state Sens. Malcolm Smith (D-Hollis) and John Sampson (D-Brooklyn), who were both expelled from their caucuses due to their arrests on corruption charges.

Several Democratic sources say the votes exist in the Senate to pass de Blasio’s plan and that Skelos keeping a floor vote from happening is a sign he knows it would pass.

“All the Democrats and Independent Democrats are on board,” said one high-placed Democratic source. “There is even a couple of Republicans who say they would consider backing it on the basis of home-rule, which they have supported in the past.”

The state has given authority to counties to raise sales taxes, for example. But Skelos noted that rejecting de Blasio’s request would not be out of character, as there are more than 160 home-rule requests the Legislature has not acted on.

De Blasio hasn’t thrown in the towel on his proposal, which has the support of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan). Democratic sources say the mayor’s plan has enough support in the Assembly to pass and possibly even override any veto by Cuomo.

“To deny a vote on something as urgently-needed and as widely-supported as funding universal pre-kindergarten is just plain wrong,” the mayor said in a statement. “Politicians in Albany have failed to meet their commitment to pay for universal pre-K time and time again, which is exactly why New York City must chart its own destiny. It’s time for Albany to give New York the home-rule right to ask the wealthiest to pay just a little more in taxes.”

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