NYers Prefer State-Funded Pre-K to Tax Hike

ALBANY (AP/Hamodia) -

More New York City voters support Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan to pay for prekindergarten expansion with existing state funds than Mayor Bill de Blasio’s proposal for a tax increase, according to a poll released Wednesday.

The Quinnipiac University poll highlights a potential challenge for the newly elected mayor as he tries to rally public support for his tax increase on wealthier New York City residents amid opposition in Albany from Cuomo and a key Republican legislative leader.

The poll found 49 percent of city voters support funding pre-K without raising taxes versus 40 percent who favor de Blasio’s proposed tax hike on wealthier city residents. Voters statewide supported using existing state funds over a city tax increase, 47 percent to 37 percent.

The mayor cast doubt on the poll, saying that the way the question was presented drove the outcome.

“With all due respect to the Quinnipiac poll, the way they phrased this question was the equivalent of asking, ‘Would you like a bowl of free candy?’ To which most people would say, ‘Yes,’” de Blasio said. “And so the question as phrased, ‘Would you like all of this to happen without an increase in taxes?’ Well anyone in their right mind would say, in a perfect world, ‘Yes.’ But the fact is, you have to pay for it.”

Quinnipiac responded that “in more than 20 years, no one has challenged the fairness of a question” and that they stand behind the poll results.

Poll respondents in the city gave de Blasio a 51 percent favorability rating. And respondents across the state and in the city overwhelmingly approved of government support for pre-K, a signature issue for de Blasio.

“Everybody likes pre-K; what everybody doesn’t like is de Blasio’s way to pay for it,” said poll director Maurice Carroll. “They like Andrew Cuomo’s way to pay for it.”

De Blasio says a tax hike on the wealthy is the best way to ensure steady funding of $340 million a year for citywide universal prekindergarten. Cuomo, up for re-election this year, claims there is enough money in the state budget to fund a rollout of the program statewide. His budget proposal includes an additional $100 million for the entire state in its first year and increases in subsequent years.

The governor told reporters at the Capitol on Wednesday that a tax hike on the wealthy would not provide equitable funding statewide because there would be too few people paying the extra levy in less affluent areas. Cuomo lauded de Blasio’s policy goal, but said he understood the poll result.

“How should you pay for it?” he questioned. “Maybe we should let the richer districts have their own and then the poorer districts finance their own. No. That’s the exact opposite [of what it should be]. That’s repugnant to the whole equity argument. It should be statewide. Let the state pay.”

De Blasio’s tax plan cannot be enacted without approval from the state Legislature, and Republican Senate leader Dean Skelos appeared to shut the door this week on bringing it to a vote. Even co-leader Sen. Jeff Klein of the Independent Democratic Conference, a de Blasio ally on this issue, said he would not delay the budget over the tax hike.