NY Senate Proposes $540M For Pre-K


The state Senate’s budget resolution includes $540 million for universal prekindergarten and after-school programs in New York City and additional funding for the rest of the state.

Though they lack the force of law, the one-house proposals from the state Senate and Assembly represent what the majorities want to see in the budget due April 1, which is being negotiated with Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The governor said that now “real discussions can begin.”

Talks on a Senate resolution between a coalition of breakaway Democrats and the Republicans who control the chamber have been ongoing for days, highlighting the political differences within the group. Members approved the resolution early Friday.

The Assembly measure,
approved Wednesday, would give New York City the authority to impose an income tax surcharge to residents making $500,000 to fund universal prekindergarten — a provision de Blasio supports.

The Senate proposal would include at least $540 million a year over five years for city pre-K and after-school programs. That would cover the full costs of de Blasio’s ambitious pre-K rollout, but without the tax he sought. Another $145 million will be made available to districts for universal pre-K expansion.

Even before the resolution was released, de Blasio lauded the development as well as movement in the Assembly, led by Speaker Sheldon Silver.

“Their powerful support for our children and families — combined with Speaker Silver and the state Assembly’s passage of a resolution last night that includes a funding stream in the form of a tax on the city’s highest earners — represents a new consensus sweeping across this state,” de Blasio said in a statement.

Silver told reporters “I’m not married to a tax” for pre-K as long as the funding is recurring, sustainable and real. Cuomo, who is opposed to the tax, repeated his pledge that the state will meet each district’s need.

The Senate proposal also indicated it would modify the optional public campaign financing system Cuomo proposed in his budget, though the broadly worded statement did not specify how it would do that.

State Senate co-leader Jeff Klein said Thursday the Dream Act, which would open up state tuition assistance programs to students in the country illegally, is not in the Senate majority coalition’s budget proposal.

“It seems to have some problems with votes,” Klein said. “But I’m committed to make sure the Dream Act, which I support wholeheartedly, gets a fair vote in the state Senate.”

Cuomo said the “main budget issue” would be addressing the profusion of local governments that drive up property taxes. The Assembly rejected his idea but Cuomo said he would fight for it.

The Senate called for $800 million to support a plan to freeze property taxes for districts that adhere to a 2 percent levy cap.

As de Blasio’s tax hike increasingly appeared dead in Albany, the new mayor held dozens of campaign-style rallies, often with union bosses or civil rights leaders at his side.