NEW YORK—On Monday, Democratic mayoral nominee Bill de Blasio visited an early childhood education program at the Children’s Aid Society, a children’s charity.
With press in tow, de Blasio read to the children a book about adoption, and played with them on the playground.
The image was cute: a 6-foot-5-inch de Blasio sitting in a chair reading a book to children who barely came up to his knees. It will be the photo and video images that will put a face on the people de Blasio is trying to help.
De Blasio is once again garnering support for his universal pre-kindergarten plan. The plan, originally unveiled in October 2012 at an Association for a Better New York (ABNY) breakfast, will require a tax hike of 3.9 percent to 4.3 percent on individuals making more than $500,000 per year.
The tax increase is expected to raise $530 million, enough to fund universal pre-k for the 50,000 New York City children who do not currently get full day pre-k and after school programs. Around 40,000 currently receive half days.
The plan will need Albany’s approval, an idea that has been largely panned by pundits considering 2014 is a re-election year for state legislators.
De Blasio has consistently balked at the notion that a tax increase is a nonstarter.
Cuomo, who endorsed de Blasio after his primary day victory, has not said publicly if he would agree to a tax increase. De Blasio said the two have spoken.
“My conversations with Gov. Cuomo have been very broad,” de Blasio said. “Obviously we all understand it is a long way before it is time to have a specific discussion.”
Despite the obstacles in getting the tax hike, waiting until after an election year is not in the Democrat’s equation. When asked if he would be willing to delay it, he scoffed at the notion.
“We have one plan, and that is to get this passed. I anticipate it in the April 2014 state budget,” de Blasio said. “My goal is to have this plan approved as part of that budget so we can do the work we have to do in the city.”
On Oct. 4, de Blasio will once again face the ABNY crowd to pitch his campaign agenda. After proposing the tax increase nearly a year ago, de Blasio said he received many complaints from the guests, nearly all of whom would be affected.
He said he is not deterred. He plans to go back and deliver the same message.
“A lot has happen in the last year,” de Blasio said with a laugh, before turning to a more serious tone. “I think there will be a lot of people in that room who appreciate the goals, and I hope people will come to understand this is the best way to achieve the goal.”