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Republican Leader Vows to Block State Vote on De Blasio's Pre-K Tax

By Colby Hamilton | February 11, 2014 8:46am | Updated on February 11, 2014 3:58pm
 Mayor Bill de Blasio requires Albany's permission for his plan to raise taxes on New York City residents to pay for universal pre-kindergarten.
Mayor Bill de Blasio requires Albany's permission for his plan to raise taxes on New York City residents to pay for universal pre-kindergarten.
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DNAinfo/Colby Hamilton

CIVIC CENTER — A Republican leader in Albany vowed Monday to block a vote on Mayor Bill de Blasio's pre-K tax — sparking outrage from New York City Democrats who support the plan.

Dean Skelos, a Nassau County Republican who is co-leader of the state Senate, said he would never allow a vote on de Blasio's request to raise taxes on New York City residents making more than $500,000 per year as a way of funding universal pre-K in the city.

“The last thing we need is to see high earners leave New York State because then we lose their tax dollars,” Skelos said during a press availability in Albany Monday. “I think the governor has clearly indicated that you don’t have to raise taxes in New York City.”

Skelos' comments, which came as the mayor delivered his first State of the City speech, drew an immediate backlash from the city's Democrats, including Bronx state Sen. Jeff Klein, who shares leadership of the Senate with Skelos.

Klein said in a statement that he would “not approve a budget that fails to realize the vision Mayor de Blasio and I share of providing high-quality, universal pre-K to the 50,000 4-year-olds who need it.”

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver also denounced Skelos’ comments.

“I and the Assembly Majority have been advocating for universal pre-K for 20 years. Senator Skelos' position is unacceptable and we will not take a viable option off the table,” Silver said in a statement.

On Tuesday, de Blasio he was "miffed" at Skelos' over his remarks, calling the threat of not bringing the UPK vote to the floor undemocratic.

"When people start demanding something like this so consistently, so intensely, it is absolutely inappropriate to disallow a vote [on UPK]," de Blasio said during a press conference held alongside Rev. Al Sharpton in Brooklyn.

De Blasio's ally in the city council, Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, also took aim at Skelos, saying it was inappropriate that "a guy from Long Island" was deciding whether or note there would be a vote on de Blasio's plan to tax city residents.

"Clearly the electorate in this city has embraced this issue, and that is the message Dean Skelos needs to hear: This is a democracy, the voice of the people have been heard here locally, and nothing should obstructe the ability for us to self tax so that we can provide a level playing field for every child in New York City," Mark-Viverito said.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Cuomo laid out his own proposal last month to fund pre-K across the state without raising taxes. Cuomo wants to increase funding for pre-K by $100 million this year as part of a five-year, $1.5 billion plan.

De Blasio, though, has said Cuomo's proposal will fall short. The mayor's plan estimates that the city alone will need $1.7 billion over the next five years to implement universal pre-K.