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Skelos won't allow vote on de Blasio's pre-K tax

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos during a news

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos during a news conference in Howard Beach Thursday, July 26, 2013. Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) has opposed de Blasio’s tax plan since it was first unveiled. Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

Senate co-leader Dean Skelos said Monday he won't allow a vote on New York Mayor Bill de Blasio's plan to raise city taxes on the wealthy to pay for expanding prekindergarten programs.

Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) has opposed de Blasio's tax plan since it was first unveiled, saying the tax wasn't necessary because Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has proposed using state funds for pre-K. On Monday, Skelos sharpened his criticism -- just hours before de Blasio delivered a State of the City address, in which he continued to campaign his prekindergarten plan.

Skelos rejected the idea that New York City's tax request should be treated like a county sales tax request or any similar "home rule" request because the city drives the state's economy. He also said the tax would spur the wealthy to move out of state.

"This isn't just a home rule issue," Skelos told reporters. "The constitution of the state has specifically given the legislature oversight of these types of [tax] issues and we have seen in the past when New York [City] went under with bad management . . . 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."

Soon afterward, Senate co-leader Jeff Klein (D-Bronx) reinforced his commitment to the mayor's plan, saying he wouldn't approve a state budget without it.

"Mayor de Blasio's plan is the only one that provides New York City with the funding it needs to achieve" the goal, of ensuring that 50,000 4-year-olds enter full-day prekindergarten programs in the city this fall," Klein said.

"Sen. Skelos' position is unacceptable and we will not take a viable option off the table," said Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan).

While Skelos ruled out a vote on the prekindergarten plan as a stand-alone issue, once-dead issues sometimes are revived when combined with other legislation in a compromise package that lawmakers support. For instance, Skelos and Cuomo declared the state's so-called "millionaires' tax" dead in April 2011, only to reverse themselves and enact a new tax on high-income earners seven months later.

Cuomo has proposed earmarking $1.5 billion over five years to jump-start full-day pre-K statewide -- even though state Education Commissioner John B. King Jr. estimated it would cost around $1.4 billion annually. Cuomo didn't immediately comment Monday.

Numerous Democrats have argued that the state should allow New York City to raise its own taxes, the same way Albany approves county sales tax requests. De Blasio made that case in his State of the City address Monday.

"To deny a vote on something as urgently-needed and as widely-supported as funding universal pre-kindergarten is just plain wrong," de Blasio 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 . . ."

With Dan Janison


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