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Legislators squabbling over whether to vote on de Blasio pre-K tax plan

As New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio made the case yet again in his State of the City speech for a tax to fund his prekindergarten expansion plan, an upstate legislator was vowing not to let the proposal even come up for a vote.

Dean Skelos, a Republican from Nassau County who heads the State Senate, said today that he would not allow his colleagues to consider legislation to raise New York City’s income tax on residents earning more than $500,000 a year. Such a tax could harm the state’s overall health by inducing wealthy earners to move away, taxing their tax dollars with them, he said.

Plus, he said, the city doesn’t need a tax because Gov. Andrew Cuomo has proposed expanding pre-K across the state using existing funds. (Cuomo’s expansion timeline is longer than de Blasio’s, and state education officials said his proposed budget is not enough to cover the costs.)

Skelos’s comments immediately drew fire from de Blasio and the supporters that his office has been lining up since last year.

“To deny a vote on something as urgently-needed and as widely-supported as funding universal pre-kindergarten is just plain wrong,” de Blasio said in a statement. He added, “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.”

The strongest challenge to Skelos’s position came from his colleague Jeff Klein, who heads the Independent Democratic Conference, a group of senators who are allied with the Republicans, creating a majority. Klein signaled that their alliance could end over the pre-K issue, saying that he would not only push to bring the tax legislation to the floor but also would not sign off on a budget that does not include de Blasio’s pre-K plan.

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