Skelos, Klein Clash Over Pre-K Tax

By Nicholas Zifcak, Epoch Times
February 10, 2014 Updated: February 10, 2014

State Senate Co-Leaders Jeff Klein and Dean Skelos clashed Monday over Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to fund expansion of prekindergarten in the city with a tax increase. 

Skelos (R-Nassau) told reporters at the Capitol Feb. 10 that he won’t allow such a bill to come to a vote in the Senate because he doesn’t support raising taxes on wealthy city residents, the Daily News reported.

His co-leader in the senate, Jeff Klein (D-Bronx) of the Independent Democratic Conference, shot back later Monday that he will not approve a budget that does not include a plan 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.”

Home Rule

Skelos countered earlier statements by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) that de Blasio’s tax increase request should be treated like a home rule matter, which allows a jurisdiction to make its own decisions. Skelos said the pre-K tax should not be treated like other home rule requests because it might reduce overall state tax revenues.

“The last thing we need is to see high-earners leave New York State because then we lose their tax dollars,” said Skelos. 

Skelos said the legislature needs to exercise its oversight role in this case. “There are perhaps 164 home rule messages that we have not acted upon. The constitution of the state has specifically given the Legislature oversight on these types of issues,” said Skelos.

Skelos said no tax hike is necessary to fund pre-K statewide, pointing to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to fund pre-K for all of New York without a tax raise.

De Blasio has said he wants the pre-K funding stream to be exempt from the yearly budget battles in Albany and has thus proposed the city-funded approach.

“Politicians in Albany have failed to meet their commitment to pay for universal pre-K time and time again, which is exactly why New York City must chart its own destiny. It’s time for Albany to give New York the home-rule right to ask the wealthiest to pay just a little more in taxes,” said de Blasio in a statement responding to Skelos.

Klein supports de Blasio and said Cuomo’s funding plan won’t guarantee New York City the funding it needs.

“Mayor de Blasio’s plan is the only one that provides New York City with the funding it needs to achieve that goal. Senate Republicans comprise a minority in this chamber. They want more support for business tax cuts and we want more support for our kids. Only by working together can we achieve a balance that works for everyone.”

The power sharing arrangement in the Senate requires both Klein and Skelos to sign-off on any legislation before it can come to vote before the full senate.