BROOKLYN—Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio launched a campaign to support his universal pre-k plan on Thursday. The campaign, called UPKNYC, is aimed at drumming up support for de Blasio’s plan and the tax hike needed to implement it.
In a plan he rolled out in Oct. of 2012, de Blasio is calling for a tax hike for those making over $500,000. The tax hike, which will last five years, will fund pre-k for children and after-school programs for middle school children.
While support for universal pre-k reaches far and wide, there is less consensus on how to pay for it. The tax hike will need approval from the State Legislature in Albany. Next year is an election year, and legislators are talking tax cuts, not hikes.
Support in the Democrat-controlled Assembly appears solid. Support in the Republican-led Senate, however, is not guaranteed.
Taking a page from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s playbook, de Blasio is using a grassroots approach to ensure the bill is passed by April. The UPKNYC coalition includes leaders from a variety of sectors including business, civil rights, academia, advocacy, and the arts.
Actress Cynthia Nixon, who was with de Blasio when he launched his campaign back in Jan., joins a star-studded list including Harvey Weinstein, the Reverend Al Sharpton, and musician John Legend.
The grassroots effort will support the work de Blasio’s own staff will be doing in Albany. Emma Wolfe, who was recently named director of intergovernmental affairs, and newly appointed budget director Dean Fuleihan, will both be making trips to Albany to get the tax increase approved.
“This will be an extraordinary effort to ensure this legislation is passed in Albany,” de Blasio said. “We have just over three months. You will see fast, vigorous effort to mobilize as many New Yorkers as possible.”
De Blasio said the coalition will reach out to the elected officials in Albany to show how much support the program has.
“We need all the leaders in Albany to feel the energy at the grassroots level,” de Blasio said.