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Thursday, August 28, 2014

We can have universal pre-K without raising taxes

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is right: All kids deserve to attend pre-kindergarten. In most cases, parents shell out money for any schooling before kindergarten. Here on Long Island, I presume that most of you pay for your kids to attend a nursery school or pre-K program. Most of you are fortunate enough to be able to afford it, even if you have to pinch pennies.

In New York City, that’s not the case, as many of the children of the poor or working poor do not attend any formal schooling before kindergarten. So de Blasio would like to given all city schoolchildren the same opportunities, and I believe he is right to do so.

Not surprising is the battle over how to pay for this bold initiative. While both de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo agree that universal pre-K is an important issue, especially in New York City, they do not agree on how it should be funded.

During his campaign, the new mayor advocated for a tax increase on city residents who make more than $500,000 per year in order to fund the program. He believes this would cover the estimated $341.6 million per year necessary to implement a pre-K program.

In his budget address, Cuomo announced that New York would become the nation’s first big state to offer full-time prekindergarten statewide, and offered up a $1.5 billion, five-year plan along with a $2 billion bond act to improve technology in all of the state’s schools. That’s not what de Blasio had in mind, however, and he is now left with the task of persuading lawmakers in Albany that Governor Cuomo’s plan is inadequate.

De Blasio is wrong to push forward with his plan for a tax increase on the wealthy. In contrast to it, Cuomo’s plan doesn’t require any new taxes.

This is no time to raise taxes. New York state is finally recovering from the economic downturn, and Cuomo’s tax relief proposals have helped make that possible. I’m deeply concerned that de Blasio’s plan would only motivate more of the city’s wealthiest to flee, taking their money and businesses to another state. Is this what we want? The answer is no.

De Blasio needs to take a step back and realize that the governor’s plan directs much of the state aid to New York City schools while holding the line on taxes, a win-win.

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