Cuomo's Budget Introduces Rival Pre-K Plan

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New York Governor Andrew Cuomo outlined his proposal for the next state budget that would raise spending by less than 2 percent over the current year, to $137.2 billion dollars.

The budget, for the fiscal year beginning April 1, offers something for everyone in a year when Cuomo and all 213 members of the legislature are up for re-election: a 3.1% increase in school aid, a two-year property tax freeze, and phased-in business tax cuts.

Cuomo's budget would also pay to expand universal pre-kindergarten across the state, though using a financing plan that is at odds with the one put forth by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

“It’s not a package that’s been put together to provoke,” Cuomo said on Tuesday. “It’s a package that’s been put together to pass.”

De Blasio campaigned on providing universal full-day pre-kindergarten, funded by a new tax surcharge on wealthy New Yorkers. But instead of endorsing the tax increase, Cuomo outlined a plan would dig into the state's general fund to pay for more pre-k classes.

In an appearance a few hours before the governor's address, de Blasio seemed reluctant to give up on his plan to use a dedicated tax revenue source.

“I have a mandate from the people to pursue this plan,” said de Blasio. “Of course we’ll be respectful and communicative, but this is the plan that will work for the people of the city.”

De Blasio's and Cuomo's plans differ in other ways: de Blasio is seeking to fund 48,000 more slots as soon as this fall, while Cuomo's expansion would be phased in over five years.

After the budget address, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver suggested a compromise. He said pre-k could be funded in part by both sources: state funding and an additional tax on the wealthy.

“Maybe a tax would only be needed for part of what’s overall needed,” said Silver, who, like de Blasio and Cuomo, is a Democrat. “We’ll have to see the plan.”

Cuomo also offered more details of a $2 billion education bond act that could go before voters in November. It would in part pay for better Internet access and iPads.

“The state will pay for it, and be proud to pay for it,” said Cuomo.

The fiscal year ends March 31. Cuomo and legislative leaders all said they plan to pull off another on-time budget.