NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Mayor Bill de Blasio outlined his vision for New York City and offered a glimpse into his signature goal of fighting the city’s widening income inequality gap.
In his State of the City address at LaGuardia Community College in Queens on Monday, de Blasio said he plans to ask state lawmakers next week for the power to raise the minimum wage.
“We want to ensure that New Yorkers aren’t relegated to the ranks of the poor when putting in a full week’s work,” he said. “We will send a powerful signal to the people of New York that we honor work and that we are committed to making work pay.”
De Blasio — who was introduced by former Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia’s granddaughter, Katherine — also said municipal identification cards will be available to all residents this year regardless of their immigration status, “so that no daughter or son of our city goes without bank accounts, leases, library cards, simply because they lack identification.”
“To all of my fellow New Yorkers who are undocumented, I say: New York City is your home, too, and we will not force any of our residents to live their lives in the shadows,” he said.
Fresh off a landslide election that he believes gives him a strong mandate, de Blasio is calling for sweeping liberal legislative action to close the gap between New York City’s haves and have-nots.
“Our middle class isn’t just squeezed; it’s at risk of disappearing altogether,” he said. “That disparity, that inequality crisis, is the greatest risk to our New York promise.”
As CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer reported, de Blasio is also making another push for his central campaign pledge to raise taxes on the wealthy to fund universal prekindergarten, an idea that polls well but needs support in Albany to become law.
“We’re not asking Albany to raise the state income tax by a penny to pay for universal pre-K and after-school programs here in New York City,” de Blasio said. “We’re simply asking Albany to allow New York City to tax itself — its wealthiest residents — those making a half-million or more a year.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who is up for re-election, has refused to raise taxes, instead proposing to fund the program through a $2 billion bond. And state Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos, R-Rockville Centre, said Monday that under no circumstances will he allow a vote authorizing the city to tax the rich to fund pre-K.
De Blasio also demanded a review of all funding for superstorm Sandy projects and called for a program of speeding up construction and distribution of aid.
“We will not forget our obligations to the people of this city still recovering from the aftereffects of superstorm Sandy,” he said. “We are resolved to make the efforts under way function more effectively and efficiently.”
The mayor also announced plans to add 200,000 units of affordable housing.
The State of the City may only be the second-most important bit of public speaking de Blasio does this week.
He is scheduled to deliver his initial budget address, in which he will spell out his priorities for the city’s $70 billion-plus budget and discuss the stark fiscal challenges posed by upcoming contract negotiations with all of the city’s unions.
De Blasio admitted negotiating contracts with the city’s 152 unions will be difficult, but he maintained he would be “fiscally responsible.”
Staten Island City Councilman Vincent Ignizio, who leads the City Council’s three-member Republican minority, said the mayor has to deliver specifics after a season of pledges.
“Campaign slogans during the campaign, through the sort of transitional honeymoon period, where you see some talking points, now has to come in the form of a budget document or actual pieces of legislation or a vision on what’s actually going to be done,” Ignizio said. “There’s a 70-plus billion dollar budget with a lot of priorities throughout the whole city. We’re going to have to hear a lot of about what’s going to go on with housing, what’s going to go on with the police department, what’s going to go on with a whole host of issues that the city deals with on a day-to-day basis.”
Meanwhile, Councilman Eric Ulrich, R-Queens, criticized de Blasio’s plan to hike taxes on the wealthy.
“I don’t think that it’s necessary that, given the economy and the way that New York City is right now, that raising taxes is a good idea.”
City Comptroller Scott Stringer told Kramer of de Blasio’s speech: “Inspirational quotes only work if there’s money to back up that hope.”
The mayor will present his budget Wednesday.
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