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De Blasio starts Albany push for tax plan

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio talks

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio talks to the media at a press conference at the Empire State Plaza and Convention Center in Albany. (Jan. 8, 2014) Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams, Jr.

ALBANY -- New York Mayor Bill de Blasio lobbied lawmakers from both parties at the state Capitol Wednesday, appealing for support for his plan to fund universal prekindergarten with tax hikes on the city's wealthiest.

He stressed the "moment of urgency" to the State Senate's Independent Democratic Conference -- the four Democratic senators who split from their party's leadership to form a majority with that chamber's Republicans. He dropped in on a State Senate Republican reception. He met with the Senate's main Democratic caucus, saying they've always "had the back of New York City." He spoke with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan), a tax-plan supporter who introduced de Blasio at his chamber's opening session to standing applause.

De Blasio told reporters that he was honored by the "friendly and positive reception."

He was in Albany to attend Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's State of the State speech, but also to start making the case to lawmakers that they should allow the city to raise taxes on those making more than $500,000, with the revenue funneled into his universal prekindergarten and after-school initiative.

He has not yet won the support of Cuomo, who highlighted plans to lower taxes in his speech. The governor also called for statewide universal prekindergarten without offering specifics on how to fund it.

De Blasio said his plan complements, rather than contradicts, Cuomo's.

"The governor, I think, was saying today that he is affirming his belief that is where we ultimately need to go as a state," de Blasio said at a news conference. "We specifically in New York City have a way of getting it done and we look forward to doing it."

The mayor already has some state leaders in his corner.

Sen. Jeff Klein (D-Bronx), leader of the Independent Democratic Conference and Senate co-leader, Wednesday said he will push to move a bill through Republican opposition in the Senate. "It's something we should have done a long time ago," Klein said.

But Senate Republican leader Dean Skelos, of Rockville Centre, the other Senate co-leader, was not won over, saying, "I'd always have the state pay for it [rather] than raising taxes."

De Blasio said he was determined to "work with every part of the Albany spectrum."

With Michael Gormley

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