Cuomo: ‘Forget the numbers’ on pre-K budget battle

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo tossed out the budget book and promised to cover the cost of statewide universal prekindergarten according to need.
Credit: Getty Images

Gov. Andrew Cuomo tossed out the budget book and promised to cover the cost of statewide universal prekindergarten according to need.

On WNYC’s “The Brian Lehrer Show” Monday, Cuomo said to “forget the numbers” of his alternative to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s tax hike to pay for the expanded early education program.

“Forget the numbers. We will pay the need of pre-K because we want to do it,” Cuomo said, adding that the state will fund any program as quickly as the cities can roll out their respective plans.

Cuomo first unveiled his plan for statewide prekindergarten in late January, effectively pushing back on de Blasio’s proposal to increase taxes on New Yorkers making $500,000 or more to pay for a $530 million program over five years.

The governor’s original plan proposed $1.5 billion in state spending over five years. De Blasio has repeatedly committed to opening 29,000 seats by September.

“The numbers are flexible,” the governor said of the state’s budget for prekindergarten. “The commitment is not.”

De Blasio also decided to show some pliability of his own on the issue Monday morning.

“I’ve 100 percent said if we have a verifiable plan for five years and the dollar figures we need, we can accept that,” the mayor said on MSNBC.

“But I’ve also said that I don’t believe, given the vagaries of Albany … that we’re going to have anything that’s verifiable and consistent as the tax plan we’ve put forward,” the mayor added.

Cuomo pushed back on the notion that a tax would cement funding any more than a budgets passed by law.

“If we passed a tax this year for the city of New York, which is what the mayor asked for, we could undo it next year. The ‘vagaries’ would continue. There’s nothing that says if you pass a tax you can’t undo the tax.”

The governor likened the idea of undoing the state’s commitment to prekindergarten to taking away money for first grade.

“That’s what pre-K’s going to be,” Cuomo said. “Once you start funding a grade, it’s nearly impossible [to defund.]”

Follow Chester Jesus Soria on Twitter @chestersoria


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