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Bill De Blasio angered by Dean Skelos' vow to block pre-K tax plan

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio delivers his

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio delivers his State of the City address at LaGuardia Community College in Queens, Monday, Feb. 10, 2014. De Blasio on Tuesday led a battle cry against State Senate co-leader Dean Skelos and others who oppose his plan to raise city taxes to fund universal prekindergarten (AP) Credit: AP

Mayor Bill de Blasio led a battle cry Tuesday against Republican State Senate co-leader Dean Skelos and others lining up against his plan to raise city taxes on high-earning New Yorkers to fund universal prekindergarten.

"The gauntlet's been thrown down in Albany," he told a cheering crowd of clergy at a Bedford-Stuyvesant breakfast. "We will respond."

Skelos, from Rockville Centre, has said he wouldn't permit a vote on de Blasio's plan, which requires state legislative approval.

An angry de Blasio called on the 200 clergy members -- including the Rev. Al Sharpton -- to appeal to their congregations in a four-week lobbying effort to be launched Sunday.

New York City shouldn't be "treated like a colony that doesn't even get to decide its own future," the mayor said.

Skelos' office declined to comment.

The city requires the State Legislature's permission for an income tax hike on those making more than $500,000, with revenue to go toward de Blasio's plan for universal pre-K and after-school programs.

Skelos had told reporters Monday, "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."

De Blasio's prospects were further dampened when an ally, Senate co-leader Jeff Klein, backtracked on an earlier vow to hold up the state budget to make sure de Blasio's pre-K tax was part of it.

Klein (D-Bronx) said he still thinks de Blasio's tax provides the most reliable funding stream for the program. But he stopped short of calling the tax necessary.

"I am not in favor of taxing for the sake of taxing, I've said that before," Klein said. "But again, if we move forward and we find that we can't fund the universal program in the city or the state, every alternative has to still be on the table."

Still later, Klein released a statement saying he wants an "on-time budget," but affirmed that he "wholeheartedly" backs de Blasio's funding proposal.

De Blasio told reporters that he was "miffed" at Skelos, saying he had understood they were still in discussions.

Asked whether he believes Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo -- who has offered a funding alternative from the state budget surplus -- should weigh in on the vote-blocking, de Blasio said, "Absolutely. . . . This is a matter of democracy."

De Blasio backer and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito criticized Skelos at a City Hall rally attended by council members, parents and activists.

"It's a guy from Long Island that's trying to prevent New York City from determining what is in our best interest," she said to cheers.

Alan Chartock, professor emeritus of political science at the University at Albany, Tuesday said Skelos' opposition to de Blasio provides political cover for Cuomo. Republicans have long served as "a natural buffer" between Cuomo and city Democrats, Chartock said.

Fordham University assistant professor of political science Christina Greer noted Cuomo needs to appeal to moderates this year. "With every roadblock, de Blasio should remember that he's trying to govern while someone else is trying to get re-elected," she said.

With Yancey Roy

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