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De Blasio Albany-bound to push pre-K plan

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio attends

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio attends a news conference with union leaders at the Union Johnson Early Learning Center in Manhattan on Jan. 6, 2014. Credit: Charles Eckert

Mayor Bill de Blasio was due in Albany Wednesday to attend Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's State of the State address and begin lobbying state legislators in earnest for their support of his universal prekindergarten plan.

De Blasio's agenda includes a handful of breakfasts with lawmakers, but he maintained Tuesday that the focus of his trip is the governor's speech.

"I want to be there to support Gov. Cuomo, and I want to be there out of the sense of being his colleague," de Blasio said, adding that Cuomo attended his inauguration on New Year's Day and the two have known each other for 20 years.

Cuomo is a necessary ally but as yet uncommitted in de Blasio's fight -- a central goal of his first months as mayor -- to win state approval of an income tax hike on the city's wealthiest to fund universal prekindergarten and after-school programs.

Cuomo, who this week rolled out plans to cut taxes statewide, has said he supports the end goal of de Blasio's education initiative.

"We're going to try and see if we can get some other meetings in quickly," de Blasio said of his Albany plans during at an unrelated City Hall news conference. "But I certainly intend to go back up to Albany in the coming weeks for more substantial meetings."

De Blasio's plan has the backing of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan).

"I think the mayor should have the right to do what he sees fit to do," Silver told reporters Tuesday outside his State Capitol office. "I think by and large the members of my conference, especially from the City of New York, want to support him," Silver said.

The Assembly leader said he prefers de Blasio's tax-the-rich proposal but wouldn't rule out other means of funding.

De Blasio and backers, including union leaders, said a "dedicated" source of revenue is necessary to ensure education programs aren't cut during budget crises.

The mayor dismissed suggestions of a looming showdown with fellow Democrat Cuomo over taxes. He said the governor's aim to lower them statewide and his to raise them on the rich are "apples and oranges."

"I respect that he has put forward a platform he thinks is best for the state, but I'll keep saying: this is for the city," the mayor said.

With Yancey Roy

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