[EXCLUSIVE] Albany close to approving Mayor de Blasio’s universal pre-K program

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NEW YORK (PIX11) – Albany appears on the verge of giving Mayor de Blasio a monumental victory in his efforts to expand universal pre-K and after school programs.  Sources in both chambers of the legislature are telling PIX11 the state will give the mayor the money he needs to launch the initiative this fall more than half-a-billion dollars would come out of the governor’s $136 billion state budget. From the outset, the mayor and the governor have favored expansion of pre-K, but they differed over how to pay for it.

Back in January, they sat side-by-side in Albany as the governor declared, “It’s about the money, about the funding, how do we do it.”  De Blasio shot back, “It’s an ongoing dialogue.”  And that dialogue in recent days has been going on in the state Senate, where insiders said there was not enough bipartisan support to do it the mayor’s way, by taxing the rich.  Republican state Senator Marty Golden of Brooklyn told PIX11 members of the Independent Democratic Coalition would have liked to see a tax increase on the rich, but noted there were not enough votes to make that happen.

The democratic majority in the Assembly had enough votes to do it the Mayor’s way, but with Governor Cuomo saying the state could pay for pre-K, the Senate had little to debate. “There will be no tax increase,” Senator Golden said assuredly.  Negotiations are underway in the Senate to come up with a new fiscal budget by the April 1st deadline.  Sources say the one being reviewed by the Senate includes a proposal to provide more money than the mayor needs to launch his programs this fall. Senator Golden made it clear, “Whatever the mayor needs will be there for him.  He needs $500 million come September, he has $500 million in September.”

De Blasio PreK

De Blasio has said he needs $500 million, but under the proposal being offered by the Senate, he would get an additional $40 million.  $340 million would come from the education budget to fund pre-K and another $200 million for after school programs would come from aid to localities funding that was eliminated from the budget two years ago, but is now being reinstated.

Once the Senate hammers out its plan, it has to be subjected to a join conference of the Senate and Assembly.  Senator Golden has no doubts how the vote will go in his chamber. “It’s not going to be close, it will be unanimous for the most part.”  He expects talks to get intense in the days just before the deadline, but feels it will be adopted on time for April 1st.

PIX11’s Marvin Scott informed Mayor de Blasio’s office of the possible deal, and while at first there was skepticism over the accuracy of the amount of funding that would be provided, they issued this statement: “We are deeply gratified by the bipartisan consensus to invest in pre-K for every child and after school for every middle-schooler.  We look forward to working with the state to secure the full funding New York City’s children need.”

But the City Hall source cautioned, “Nothing is done until it’s done.”  There has been no word from the governor about any of this, but sources claim the governor is on board with it.  It should be noted that Senator Golden was one of five sources in both the Senate and Assembly interviewed for this story.

A prominent Democratic source in the Assembly is optimistic, saying, “In the end we’re going to make everybody happy,” and he predicted one big photo op with the governor and mayor smiling.  It’s a win-win for both, and for the kids.