Universal Pre-K Funding Fight Overshadows New Mayor’s First Budget
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled his administration’s first city budget on Wednesday.
During his presentation, de Blasio showed how he plans to put his campaign promises in effect through the city’s roughly $70 billion in annual spending.
The primary focus of the mayor’s plan includes universal, full-day pre-kindergarten, which includes $530 million from taxing the rich, a projection that got him a tongue-lashing from Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who called the mayor’s plan patently unfair to the rest of the state< CBS 2′s Marcia Kramer reported.
“Maybe we should let the rich districts have their own and the poor districts finance their own. No, that’s the exact opposite; that’s repugnant to the whole equity argument,” Cuomo said Wednesday.
The governor turned the mayor’s income inequality argument back on him, saying it makes no sense to let New York City tax the rich, while letting poor communities fend for themselves.
“It should be state-wide; let the state pay, let the state distribute,” Cuomo said.
The latest pre-K contretemps surfaced as a new Quinnipiac University poll found that New Yorkers like Gov. Cuomo’s plan for funding pre-K much better than de Blasio’s tax plan:
* 47 percent favored Cuomo’s plan for the state to pay for pre-K
* 37 percent support taxing the rich
The governor also sought to debunk de Blasio’s argument that the state lacks the fund to pay for the city program.
“I’m ready. As fast as he’s ready to move I am ready. I got my new license plate. I’ll put it on the car. I will drive down and deliver the check personally to New York City to open the first pre-K site,” Cuomo said.
The mayor was unmoved by the governor’s comments, insisting he needs to tax the rich, period.
“We’re fundamentally convinced that this is the right way forward,” de Blasio said.
De Blasio also outlined a series of stark fiscal challenges presented by impending contract negotiations with all 150 municipal unions. The city employees have all been working on expired contracts. Labor leaders have asked for retroactive raises which could cost more than $7 billion.
“You’re talking in the billions and raises usually go into the base salary, which will also increase pension contributions needed,” Citizens Budget Commission President Carol Kellermann told WCBS 880′s Rich Lamb.
Kellermann said there could be unexpected revenues from taxes on bonuses and real estate sales, but not sufficient funds to cover the contracts.
Mayor de Blasio has faulted his predecessor, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, for failing to bargain with the unions.
“I don’t know that it’s productive to try to say whose fault that was. I think there’s plenty of responsibility to go around. At a certain point, the unions made a decision that they wanted to wait for the next mayor,” Kellermann said.
The mayor has noted that the city has never had all its labor contracts open at once.
“I think the previous administration was given an artificially high level of credit for management,” the mayor said. “The way they budgeted was not appropriate. You cannot ignore open labor contracts for years on end. In the final years of the mayor’s term there was a particular interest in burnishing the mayor’s legacy,” de Blasio said.
The mayor’s budget also calls for inspector general for the NYPD, and enforcement of the paid sick leave act. He has also set goals for investing more money in public housing repairs and maintenance and intends to expand services for homeless youths and cap rent contributions for HIV and AIDS clients.
By law, the city must balance its budget, forcing a mayor to choose priorities and, if needed, make cuts.
The budget presentation is a key moment for any mayor, and particularly for a new occupant of City Hall.
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