An exclusive interview

Sen. Jeff Klein envisions lofty goals, repudiates Moreland Commission


During a wide-ranging interview at the office of The Press last week, state Sen. co-majority leader Jeffrey Klein outlined his proposal to fund universal pre-K, institute campaign finance reform, revitalize Mitchell-Llama Housing for middle class families and bolster women’s rights. 

Before heading to Albany to begin the 2014 legislative session on Jan. 8, Mr. Klein also defended his opposition to the Moreland Commission and addressed a possible challenge for his senate seat from former Councilman G. Oliver Koppell.

Mr. Klein is currently among a group of state legislators who have filed papers in court contesting the work of the Moreland Commission, which Governor Andrew Cuomo and State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman jointly appointed to investigate corruption in the state’s legislature.  Mr. Klein argues the state’s executive branch does not have the constitutional authority to probe the legislative branch.

Mr. Klein has publicly backed Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to provide full-day pre-kindergarten classes to all families in the city with 4-year-old children. “Universal pre-K is a major component of affordable education,” he said. “This would benefit all kids regardless of neighborhoods and income levels.”

Mr. de Blasio proposed taxing households with more than $500,000 in annual income an additional $973 yearly to fund the initiative. 

Though Mr. Cuomo has proposed tax cuts and state Republicans remain cagey on the issue heading into midterm elections later this year, Mr. Klein said it is possible to allow local governments, including New York City, to institute new taxes or raise existing ones to fund specific projects. “Localities can tax with a finite purpose,” he said.

Still, Mr. Klein warned that if universal pre-K is established, it would take time to institute due to the specifics of locating buildings for classes and hiring teachers. Mr. de Blasio estimates the initiative will cost $350 million yearly.

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