Mayor Bill de Blasio used his first State of the City address Monday to outline initiatives to bridge the income inequality gap, provide immigrants with greater economic opportunities and usher in expanded prekindergarten by next fall.
He pushed municipal IDs for New Yorkers “regardless of immigration status” within the year, telling undocumented residents that the city is their home, too.
“We want to make sure that no daughter or son of our city goes without the bank accounts, the leases, the library cards that make everyday life possible simply because they lack identification,” de Blasio said to loud applause at LaGuardia Community College in Long Island City.
The mayor also stressed initiatives intended to close the wealth gap, pushing legislation that he and City Council allies will pursue this month to increase “living wages” and seeking approval from Albany to raise the local minimum wage.
“We will send a powerful signal to the people of New York: that we honor work and that we are committed to making work pay,” de Blasio said.
His speech was titled “A Fair Shot for Everyone.”
De Blasio was introduced by Katherine LaGuardia, granddaughter of former Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, a figure whom de Blasio has long cited as one of his heroes.
De Blasio, the first Democrat to lead the city in two decades, was elected in a landslide with the mission to reverse policies that favor the wealthy, policies that he and supporters have faulted Mayor Michael Bloomberg for championing.
Bloomberg was not mentioned in the speech, although former mayors Ed Koch and David Dinkins were.
In addition to local control of minimum wage, de Blasio is making a higher-profile request of state legislators: He is seeking approval of a tax increase on the city’s highest earners to fund universal prekindergarten and after-school programs.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who was not at the speech, has proposed funding statewide universal pre-K with a state budget surplus. De Blasio noted the governor’s absence, but complimented him.
“I know that people of good conscience can have different plans for how to achieve better outcomes for our kids,” de Blasio said, making a case for his own plan.
“We’re not asking Albany to raise the state income tax by a penny to pay for universal pre-K and after-school programs here in New York City. We’re simply asking Albany to allow New York City to tax itself,” he said in his 42-minute speech. “Raising taxes on the rich makes our commitment to our kids more than just words.”
De Blasio also touched upon relief for those New Yorkers still struggling to rebuild in the wake of superstorm Sandy. His speech also mentioned the recent snowstorms that marked the start of his tenure, and he thanked city employees, including those of the NYPD, FDNY and Sanitation Department for their efforts during the storms.
The mayor is expected to release his preliminary budget on Wednesday, marking the start of formal negotiations over funding.
Among his greatest budgetary challenges are the 150-plus open labor contracts.
“We are faced with a federal government in gridlock. There is uncertainty with the state budget,” he said. “And we have over 150 labor contracts that are unsettled. When you take all these factors into account, we are facing an uncharted path.”
After the speech, council member Eric Ulrich, of Ozone Park, one of three Republicans in the 51-member City Council, said he believes Bloomberg left the city in good financial shape.
“Certainly when de Blasio was sworn into office, he inherited a city that was far better off than the city Mike Bloomberg inherited 12 years ago,” he said. “Labor contracts ... are the juggernaut in the room.”
Ulrich added that he doesn’t believe taxing the wealthy is necessary considering Cuomo’s offer.
Council member Jumaane Williams (D-East Flatbush) said he supports the concrete proposals that de Blasio presented for municipal IDs and pre-K but wanted even more details on other initiatives.
Williams said he had hoped to hear more on combating gun violence and building affordable housing.