EAST HARLEM — With a lineup of some of the top labor leaders in the state and city behind him, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced an array of union support Monday for a tax increase on the wealthy to pay for his signature universal pre-K plan.
Union officials vowed to activate their collective member base, which they say is 1.3 million strong, to pressure elected officials in Albany to support de Blasio’s plan to raise taxes on city residents making $500,000 a year or more. The officials made clear they intend to make Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has been cool on the idea of using a tax increase to fund universal pre-K, one of their targets.
“A minor tax on the wealthy to fund these programs, and to provide a stable funding source, is overwhelmingly supported by working families in New York City and this state,” said Stuart Appelbaum, head of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. “The state legislature and Gov. Cuomo should join Mayor de Blasio and a growing movement of working people to enact this tax to fund these programs.”
De Blasio's event, held at a pre-K facility in Harlem, came on the same day that Cuomo unveiled his plan to reduce taxes in the state at an Albany press conference.
According to YNN’s Nick Reisman, when asked about de Blasio’s push for universal pre-K, Cuomo remained consistent in his support for the idea, even as he reiterated the plan for how to pay for it required a “broader conversation.”
The proposed tax increase requires the approval of both Cuomo and the state Legislature.
De Blasio said the union support was not to be underestimated.
“When you see the whole cross-section of the labor movement here in common cause, people should recognize that this is an important moment,” he said Monday.
Among those joining de Blasio was Michael Mulgrew, the head of the city’s teachers union, who vowed to support de Blasio's plan. Mulgrew — whose union did not support de Blasio’s campaign during the Democratic primary last year — said his earlier doubts about the plan had been allayed by de Blasio’s clear commitment to seeing universal pre-K implemented in the city.
“We’ve heard this as educators for generations,” Mulgrew said of the promise of universal pre-K. He said in conversations with de Blasio and his staff, Mulgrew came to believe “they really have engaged themselves in a meaningful, in not just figuring out the funding source, but figure out how to make this work for the entire city.”
“We’re going to be able to get this done,” Mulgrew said.