Governor Andrew Cuomo and
legislative leaders struck a deal to allocate $300 million for
universal pre-kindergarten in New York City, giving Mayor Bill de Blasio funds for his signature program without the tax
increase on the rich he sought.
The agreement is part of a wider accord on the state’s
$137.9 billion budget and sets up the fourth consecutive on-time
spending plan ahead of the fiscal year that starts April 1. The
deal also puts on the November ballot a $2 billion borrowing
referendum to fund school technology and pre-K classrooms, a
measure to give property owners rebates on their taxes if their
local governments control spending, and another that drives the
corporate tax rate to its lowest since 1968.
The pre-K funds, which include an additional $40 million
for schools elsewhere in the state, will be available as soon as
localities can make classes available, Cuomo said. The plan also
includes new training requirements for early childhood education
“It’s not just an aggressive undertaking for statewide
pre-K, it’s also about a quality pre-K program,” Cuomo said
today on conference call with reporters. “We’re excited about
De Blasio, in a statement, said the agreement was a
“powerful and historic decision that will change the lives of
tens of thousands of children.”
The accord puts a formal end to a battle over taxes between
Cuomo and de Blasio, fellow Democrats and friends for 20 years.
The mayor took office in January after winning election by the
widest margin in history for a nonincumbent with a campaign that
described a metropolis divided between rich and poor. He said a
tax increase on those earning more than $500,000 to fund pre-K
and after-hours programs for middle-schoolers would help shrink
The sticking point was that de Blasio needed approval from
state lawmakers and the governor to raise taxes. He visited the
capital four times, pressing for a levy increase. Cuomo and
Republicans who control the Senate were focused on cutting taxes
in an election year, and de Blasio’s initiative hit a wall.
About 20,000 of New York’s 68,000 4-year-olds get city-funded full-day pre-kindergarten classes, with 38,000 enrolled
in three-hour programs and 10,000 in none. De Blasio, who plans
to start the program in September with 53,000 children, has
estimated it would cost about $342 million a year to serve about
73,000 children in 2015.
About 25 percent of middle-schoolers participate in after-hours extracurricular programs, and to double that enrollment
would cost about $190 million, according to de Blasio’s plan.
The budget directs as much as $750 million expected from new
casinos in the state to pay for after-school programs, Bob Megna, Cuomo’s budget director, said on the call with reporters
In the last month, negotiations among Cuomo and lawmakers
zeroed in on a dollar figure for pre-K in the city and
statewide, with little talk of the tax.
Though de Blasio didn’t get the levy, the $300 million just
for New York City is triple the amount Cuomo included in his
January budget proposal for the entire state, while also
committing to provide $1.5 billion statewide program over the
next five years. The overall funding amount is the same that
Cuomo proposed in January, although it speeds up the delivery.
The cash will be doled out as a reimbursement for work already
done by approved programs, Cuomo said.
It’ll help set up the largest pre-K program in the U.S. in
New York City. De Blasio sees the tripling of state support in
the first year of the five-year plan as a positive, said Wiley
Norvell, a mayoral spokesman.
“We see this as a very significant win for us in
implementing our program,” said Norvell.
The spending deal puts the state in position for its fourth
consecutive on-time budget, the first time that’s happened since
1977. The timely budget has the state poised for its highest
credit rating from Standard & Poor’s since 1972.
The accord includes a plan to give property owners a rebate
equal to the increase in their property tax bill if their local
governments agree to keep spending growth below the state’s 2
percent property tax cap, the legislation says.
In the second year, they’d get a rebate if the
jurisdictions they live in present a three-year plan to share
services and lower spending by 1 percent annually while
remaining under the cap. During the course of three years the
plan, which also includes a rebate for New York City renters who
meet income requirements, will provide $1.5 billion to 2.8
million taxpayers, Cuomo said.
“The tax freeze is an election year ploy that ignores the
relationship of unfunded state mandated spending on local
governments,” said Michael Conners, the Albany County
comptroller, in an e-mailed statement. The budget also includes
an additional $1.1 billion in education spending, a 5.3 percent
increase over the current fiscal year.
Cuomo said it’s needed to lower New York’s property taxes,
which are among the highest in the nation.
The income-tax rate for corporations would drop to 6.5
percent from 7.1 percent and to zero from 5.9 percent for
manufacturers, said Rich Azzopardi, a Cuomo spokesman.
“We are thrilled to see serious corporate tax reform that
will encourage job creation and business investment,” Kathryn Wylde, who heads the Partnership for New York City, a business-backed group, said in an e-mailed statement.
To contact the reporter on this story:
Freeman Klopott in Albany at
To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Stephen Merelman at [email protected]
Sylvia Wier, Joe Sabo