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De Blasio won't rule out a future tax fight over pre-K

Mayor Bill de Blasio announces preparations to recruit

Mayor Bill de Blasio announces preparations to recruit and train teachers as part of the expansion of full-day pre-kindergarten at press conference at City Hall, Tuesday, March 25, 2014. Photo Credit: Bryan Smith

Mayor Bill de Blasio Tuesday left the door open for future pursuit of a tax hike from Albany, though he said he sees the $300 million infusion of state aid for city prekindergarten programs as a win.

"We expect and believe that the issue is resolved," de Blasio said at a City Hall roundtable discussion with reporters. "I couldn't be happier with the magnitude of the victory here, but it's something we also have to keep an eye on each year."

The mayor said he and allies would travel regularly to Albany to ensure adequate funding for the city's pre-K initiative.

As a candidate and as mayor, he had for 18 months pushed for a tax on city residents earning more than $500,000 to fund universal pre-K and after-school programs. The tax was rejected by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and state legislators, who instead offered de Blasio funds from the state budget surplus.

De Blasio didn't shoot down the idea of seeking a tax for other, as-yet-undefined purposes: "I never rule out anything, but I think the bottom line is: Right now we're focused on pursuing the agenda that we have."

Speaking to a dozen reporters, he put a positive spin on new state protections for charter schools -- the taxpayer-funded, privately run institutions whose growth he wanted to restrain, saying that they sap resources from conventional public schools.

The deal reached by charter supporter Cuomo and state lawmakers would force de Blasio to find rent-free space for charters in city-owned buildings. De Blasio had wanted to charge some charters rent and put a moratorium on space-sharing arrangements.

The city still controls school buildings and space-sharing arrangements, called co-locations, said de Blasio, who has adopted a more conciliatory tone toward charters recently.

"There's going to be a new process," he said. "It's going to be more equitable. And all the actions taken by the state don't contradict that."

The mayor said there's not much he would change about the way he lobbied the state in the budget process.

"We feel good about the scorecard," he said, adding a caveat later: "There's the ability to communicate better. There's always the ability to understand how to get your point across better. I'm sure I can do better at that in the future."

The mayor said his relationship with Cuomo, a fellow Democrat, longtime friend and former boss, hasn't been marred by the fights over pre-K funding, charter schools and other issues. "If we have some disagreements, that's natural," he said. "He has a job to do; I have a job to do."

Cuomo, at an Albany news conference on the on-time state budget, echoed the sentiment: "Nobody said being mayor of New York is easy. Nobody said being governor of New York is easy. . . . But it's all's well that ends well."

With Yancey Roy

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