De Blasio preaches pre-K merits from Albany pulpit

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio at a New York Mayor Bill de Blasio at a press conference in the Lincoln Houses in East Harlem on Feb. 8, 2014. Photo Credit: Anthony Lanzilote

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Mayor Bill de Blasio pitched the merits of universal prekindergarten from the pulpit Sunday, but -- with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in the audience of the Albany church -- did not promote a tax hike as his preferred funding method.

De Blasio later said he was being "respectful of the governor," who wants pre-K programs expanded statewide using revenue from a state budget surplus and opposes de Blasio's plan to raise taxes on New York City's wealthy to fund local pre-K and after-school initiatives.

"I didn't think that in a church was the place to have a debate over this," de Blasio said after the service at Wilborn Temple First Church of God in Christ. De Blasio was in Albany for Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus events.

De Blasio needs state legislative approval for his proposal to increase taxes on those making more than $500,000.

Though he has allies in State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) and State Senate co-leader Jeff Klein (D-Bronx), Senate co-leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) has said he wouldn't allow a vote on the plan and Cuomo has ramped up rhetoric against de Blasio's proposal, arguing it would create the very inequities statewide that the mayor wanted to end in the city.

De Blasio Sunday tried to shut down speculation that he neglected to speak of the tax in church because he was bracing for a compromise with Cuomo.

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"There's one plan and one plan only on the table," de Blasio said. "I wanted to be respectful in that setting."

Cuomo Friday in a WNYC interview turned the "tale of two cities" theme that defined de Blasio's candidacy against him. It would not be fair to less well-off towns in the New York State if wealthier New York City used its own funds to improve pre-K, Cuomo said.

"The answer to a tale of two cities is not to create two states," Cuomo said.

De Blasio Sunday also attempted to snuff out a controversy involving Bishop Orlando Findlayter, of Lynbrook, who was arrested last Monday but avoided a night in jail. The mayor had phoned a high-ranking NYPD official inquiring about Findlayter's arrest.

"I've covered this topic," de Blasio said. "I really have nothing else to say."

De Blasio has defended his involvement and said a precinct commander had decided to release Findlayter, pastor of a Brooklyn church, before de Blasio's call.

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