Is De Blasio's Pre-K Tax Dead?

February 11, 2014

Bill de Blasio's bid to raise income taxes on the wealthy to pay for universal pre-kindergarten is dead, a top legislative leader declared Monday morning.

The pronouncement by Senate Republican leader Dean Skelos was met with energetic rage by de Blasio's allies, including major labor groups, and a statement from the mayor that Skelos' declaration was “just plain wrong.”

But the state's top Democrat, tellingly, was silent.

For Governor Andrew Cuomo, who is running for re-election and effectively headed off de Blasio's planned tax hike by offering to fund school programs without raising taxes, this was a positive result. A liberal program he opposed had been stalled, and, officially, he wasn't the one who stalled it: It was a Republican from Nassau County who did so, by declaring he would not assent to a floor vote on a tax that requires his chamber's approval.

Here was the New York City mayor's official introduction to the Albany dynamic, which he'll no doubt be coming across with some regularity over the course of his first term.

Popular support for the high-earner tax in the city, shown in de Blasio's election and subsequent polls, will apparently turn out to have been no match for the will of the Republican co-leader of a cobbled-together Senate majority. De Blasio's experienced political operation doesn't seem to matter much, either; organizing is great, but at the Capitol, the flow of legislation is tightly controlled by the majority leaders in each chamber. They are rarely bested by their members, or a popular groundswell, and if they are, it is reactive—not pre-emptive. There are four men in the room at the moment who decide what gets done, and de Blasio is not one of them.

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