Cuomo keeps de Blasio tax-the-rich idea at arm's length

Democratic mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio is joined

Democratic mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio is joined by his wife Chirlane McCray, daughter Chiara de Blasio, son Dante de Blasio, as he greets supporters in front of the Bell House after election results show him placing first in NYC's primary election in Brooklyn. (Sept. 10, 2013) (Credit: Charles Eckert)

Dan Janison

Melville. N.Y. Tuesday January 26, 2010. Daniel Janison, Dan Janison

Dan Janison has been a reporter at Newsday for 10

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Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo found an intriguing way to hint Thursday that he is not about to sign on to the tax-the-rich plan that Bill de Blasio, a one-time aide, champions as he runs for New York City mayor.

"Campaign plans often come down to a bumper sticker. And I'll be curious to find out exactly what the real plans are, and once we have a real discussion, then I'll have an opinion," Cuomo told Newsday's Paul LaRocco after a fluke-fishing announcement in Montauk.

"Real plans." Now that's an interesting phrase.

Before winning first place in Tuesday's Democratic primary, de Blasio drew fire from rivals for vowing to tax those making $500,000 or more to fund pre-K programs across the boroughs. Christine Quinn and Bill Thompson said his promised tax would die on arrival in Albany.

De Blasio replied that declaring defeat in advance reflected "old thinking." De Blasio also has championed the preservation of neighborhood hospitals and got arrested protesting the state university's planned closure of one in Brooklyn. Health funding, however, is state government territory, and new pressure from the city on that front could also mean extra agita for Cuomo as he campaigns for re-election next year.

Asked for a response to Cuomo's statement, de Blasio spokesman Dan Levitan emailed back: "We don't have anything to add."

Not that he'd say it, but Cuomo learned long ago how mayoral candidates campaign on hot-button issues beyond City Hall's control. In the crime-ridden summer of 1977, his dad Mario Cuomo's opponent, Ed Koch, campaigned for the death penalty, a state issue. Koch won, but the state wouldn't enact capital punishment for another 15 years, and nobody was executed before it was ruled unconstitutional in 2004.

Mitchell Moss, professor of urban policy at New York University, said it is typical to run for mayor "on an issue that people care about but which you can't influence."

Moss cites de Blasio's blasts at economic inequality in the city. "It's a national problem -- a tale of two nations, not a tale of two cities. The economic recovery of the past four years has exacerbated inequality in the nation, and the city reflects that," Moss said.

In the late 1990s, de Blasio was regional director for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development under then-HUD Secretary Cuomo. But Cuomo also has ties to runner-up Thompson, who was the governor's 2010 campaign chairman. Further, Cuomo appointed GOP candidate Joe Lhota to head the MTA, and hailed his management of the transportation system during the crisis wrought by superstorm Sandy.

The state Capitol has reacted in different ways to New York City mayors' demands for help. In his first term, Mayor Michael Bloomberg sought to revive a commuter tax on residents of surrounding areas who work in the city. Gov. George Pataki and lawmakers nixed it -- but then approved a state financing gimmick that rolled some of the city's multibillion-dollar debt into longer-term state debt.

In addition, Bloomberg twice got the City Council to hike property tax rates -- by 18.5 percent in his first year, 2002, and another 7 percent in 2008. Those across-the-board measures didn't require state approval.