The City Council Thursday approved a $42 million grant program to aid private-sector school bus drivers whose wages were slashed during Mayor Michael Bloomberg's tenure, with several council members voting "aye" despite reservations about its legality and the precedent it sets.

The funding would supplement salaries cut when Bloomberg awarded new bus contracts and saved the city what his spokesman said was $405 million. It passed 41-6.

Councilwoman Inez Dickens (D-Manhattan) said a public subsidy for private companies that won contracts is unfair to others that bid, perhaps with higher-paid employees, and lost.

Councilman Steven Matteo (R-Staten Island) voted against the program, calling it illegal.

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Councilman Daniel Garodnick (D-Manhattan) also voted "no," calling the subsidy's goal of helping drivers well-meaning but saying it sets a bad precedent and the procurement process must be respected.

Mayor Bill de Blasio supported the grant program.