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De Blasio plans to revive old legislative battles with Albany

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks with lawmakers and community groups at the Capitol in Albany on March 22, 2017. Credit: AP / Hans Pennink

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has vowed in his second term to revive the legislative battles he lost in the State Capitol during his first term.

A “mansion tax” to fund affordable housing programs that Senate Republicans have called a “nonstarter,” a “millionaire’s tax” to pay for transit upgrades that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has described as a political “impossibility,” and stricter rent regulation laws are all on the list of demands de Blasio said he plans to take back to Albany.

“There’s a lot to do in Albany going forward,” de Blasio said at a news conference a day after easily winning re-election, adding that he planned on seeking state funding for a plan to offer free prekindergarten classes to all of the city’s 3-year-olds, and would “put my heart and soul” into fighting for changes to the state’s election laws.

But after four years of a rocky relationship with Cuomo and Republicans who control the State Senate, political analysts say de Blasio, a term-limited Democrat, will likely continue to face resistance to his legislative wish list, unless Democrats can flip control of the State Senate in next year’s election.

George Arzt, a political consultant who previously worked as an aide to former New York City Mayor Ed Koch, said that with state lawmakers up for re-election next year, “it is doubtful” that Senate GOP Leader John Flanagan of East Northport “or the hierarchy in the Senate are going to give the mayor much” in the coming year.

“Whatever the mayor gets, will be through” the aid of Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, a Bronx Democrat, who endorsed de Blasio’s re-election bid, and Sen. Jeff Klein of the Bronx, who serves as the leader of the Independent Democratic Conference, a group of eight breakaway Democrats that share control of the Senate with the Republican caucus, said Arzt.

De Blasio’s tax proposals are “not going anywhere, he knows that . . . but he wants to reiterate his credentials for being the voice of the progressive wing of the [Democratic] party,” Arzt said.

The mayor, who was endorsed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) this year, has repeatedly dismissed the notion that his pair of tax proposals are dead on arrival.

“I think it is a fair idea to ask those who buy very expensive homes to pay a little more so that seniors could have affordable housing,” de Blasio said at a post-election news conference. “I am going to fight for the millionaire’s tax in Albany so that those who have done very, very well and live in New York City pay a little more in income tax so that everyone else can get around.”

By rallying behind proposals to tax the wealthy that are popular with liberal Democrats, de Blasio will continue to elevate his standing among the faction of the Democratic Party that propelled Sanders’ presidential run last year, said Kenneth Sherrill, professor emeritus of political science at Hunter College.

Having the support of the Sanders camp of the party could put de Blasio in a better position to negotiate with Cuomo as the governor seeks re-election to a third term next year, and a possible run for president in 2020, Sherrill said.

De Blasio “is putting down his markers about the kind of issues that would be important to the left wing of the Democratic Party in the 2020 primary,” Sherrill said. “By staking out a position on the left he helps to define the center.”

The mayor also could be counting on winning over Democratic state lawmakers who were previously on the fence about some of his proposals, by casting his requests as part of a “larger conversation about the needs of people who are being left behind” by the federal budget cuts proposed by President Donald Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress, said Christina Greer, a political-science professor at Fordham University.

“De Blasio’s calculus might be, ‘Well, things in D.C. have definitely deteriorated, and not just some voters, but some lawmakers might see the value in having a millionaire’s tax that they didn’t support the first time around,’ ” Greer said. “Sometimes there are benefits to having a round two. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”

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