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De Blasio headed to Albany to press agenda

Mayor Bill de Blasio presents the city's fiscal

Mayor Bill de Blasio presents the city's fiscal year 2016 preliminary budget at City Hall, Monday, Feb. 9, 2015. Credit: AP / Bebeto Matthews

Mayor Bill de Blasio is set to testify Wednesday morning before the State Legislature, seeking a green light for his progressive agenda but likely to encounter resistance from Republicans and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

On his long wish list for inclusion in the state budget, due in April: a higher minimum wage for the five boroughs, strengthened rent regulation and sustained funding for New York City mass transit.

His testimony, scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m., is expected to last at least two hours as he lobbies members of the Hearing on Local Governments before the Joint Fiscal Committees of both chambers.

"We have made clear to all of our friends and colleagues here that we're going to need their help in achieving those changes in Albany," de Blasio said earlier this week at an event in the city.

The trip comes at a particularly challenging time for de Blasio. His longtime patron, Sheldon Silver, has been toppled from the speaker's post in the Assembly, and he faces a more Republican State Senate after unsuccessfully campaigning for Democratic candidates in that chamber last year.

Tension between a New York City mayor and a governor, even of the same party, is not new, and although the mayor and Cuomo often profess the strength of their relationship as fortified by decades of working together, they've recently tangled.

For example, within hours of de Blasio's State of the City announcement that he would seek to build more affordable housing over the Sunnyside rail yards and ask to raise the minimum wage to $13, Cuomo's spokeswoman issued a statement that land owned by the state was unavailable and letting the city set its own minimum wage was a "nonstarter."

The city's rent regulations are to expire in the middle of the month, and there is a $15 billion gap in the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's five-year capital plan. De Blasio has expressed disappointment at the lack of funding for the MTA.

Silver was instrumental during last year's budget season in helping de Blasio accomplish one of his signature mayoral campaign promises: providing citywide, universal prekindergarten classes for all 4-year-olds.

Although Silver's successor as speaker, Carl Heastie (D-Bronx), is from the city, he lacks the experience Silver enjoyed with more than 20 years in the post, said Kenneth Sherrill, an emeritus professor of political science at Hunter College.

"I'll be surprised if the first time around he does as well as Silver did," Sherrill said. "But time will tell."

Nevertheless, de Blasio will be relying on Heastie to deliver for the city. Earlier this month, he called Heastie an "incredible" leader.

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