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Cuomo Says State Might Cover Cost of NYC's Universal Pre-K Without Tax Hike

By Colby Hamilton | October 25, 2013 11:08am
 Governor Andrew Cuomo discussed Democratic mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio's plans to raise taxes to pay for universal pre-K in New York City.
Governor Andrew Cuomo discussed Democratic mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio's plans to raise taxes to pay for universal pre-K in New York City.
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DNAinfo/Colby Hamilton

FINANCIAL DISTRICT — Governor Andrew Cuomo hinted at a face-saving move that could spare him and mayoral front-runner Bill de Blasio a costly showdown over de Blasio's campaign vow to raise taxes on the rich to fund universal pre-K — suggesting that Albany could come up with the cash to foot the bill.

Cuomo, who would have to sign any New York City income tax increase into law, has been frosty on de Blasio's plan to pay for pre-K for all students and expanded after-school programs for middle school children with a tax hike on New York City residents making more than $500,000.

But the pair, who have worked closely in the past including a stint together during the Clinton administration, have been headed for a collision course as de Blasio has refused to back down on his tax plan.

“[De Blasio] put forth a financing plan, which is a tax increase. That is an option to fund universal pre-K,” Cuomo said at an unrelated press conference Thursday. But he added, "I’ve put forth universal pre-K last year, and we’re moving in that direction. I obviously didn’t pay for it with a tax increase."

Cuomo reiterated that his tax philosophy is that “we’re more competitive economically if we’re reducing taxes.”

Pointing to his own State of the State speech earlier this year, Cuomo said he’s been supportive of universal pre-K for the state and believes it can be done without raising taxes.

But should de Blasio win, the governor said, he would at least hear him out.

“I said, when he comes up with his governmental plans, he should come to Albany, present the plans to legislative leaders and myself,” Cuomo said. “Let’s discuss it.”

Cuomo said he expects discussions around a pre-K plan to begin in January. When asked how he would finance a universal pre-K plan, the governor indicated that the funds might already be present to accomplish the goal both he and de Blasio share.

“Sometimes the question is, let’s be more creative with the money that we’re now spending,” Cuomo said.