CIVIC CENTER — Gov. Andrew Cuomo is set to unveil a plan to pay for universal pre-kindergarten across the state, in what could spell trouble for Bill de Blasio's plan to hike taxes to fund citywide programs.
Cuomo's budget address in Albany Tuesday will include a $1.5 billion, five-year UPK proposal that will dole out funds to any district in the state that wants it — along with more stringent regulations and teaching requirements, according to an administration source.
But those close to de Blasio say the money doesn't come close to the estimated $2.5 billion that the city needs to raise in the next five years to pay for his ambitious universal pre-K program. De Blasio has vowed to raise the funds by hiking taxes on New York City's wealthiest residents, a plan that has been repeatedly dismissed by Cuomo.
“The statewide program doesn’t even cover the needs for New York City,” a source said, adding that officials fear the funding stream for universal pre-K will ultimately come out of other education funding from the state.
“What [Cuomo's] really doing is robbing a grade schooler to pay a pre-schooler,” the source close to City Hall said.
Cuomo will propose at least $720 billion from future casino revenues in the state — a source that some fear could be too tenuous to provide stable funding streams.
But the Cuomo administration disputed the suggestion that there could be any changes to universal pre-k funds, once implemented. In addition, an administration source said a tax hike has the potential to be much less reliable than what the Governor is promoting.
Still, whatever Cuomo ends up proposing is already a win for de Blasio, sources close to the mayor said.
“No matter what happens from here on out, nobody could say this isn't a victory for the mayor,” the source said. “He turned a quiet discussion into a front-page story and nobody can deny that.”
Cuomo’s office did not immediately return requests for comment.