Skelos’ opposition to pre-K tax puts Klein in crosshairs
By Shant Shahrigian
Republican state Senate Co-Majority Leader Dean Skelos’ Monday announcement that he will block a vote on Mayor Bill de Blasio’s universal preschool proposal is putting his alliance with Co-Majority Leader Jeff Klein — who supports the mayor’s plan — to the test.
The standoff has also opened Mr. Klein to criticism from a prospective challenger, former councilman G. Oliver Koppell, who previously said he will make Mr. Klein’s alliance with Mr. Skelos the center of his own campaign if he ultimately decides to run.
“[The] report that Senator Skelos will block Mayor de Blasio’s pre-K plan from coming up for a vote is outrageous,” Mr. Koppell said in a statement. “The only reason Senator Skelos is allowed to block this and other progressive legislation is because of his backroom deal with Senator Jeff Klein.”
Mr. Koppell also called on Mr. Klein to end his alliance with Mr. Skelos. Mr. Klein and three other state Senators formed the IDC to create a governing coalition with Senate Republicans in December 2012.
Mr. Klein’s office declined to comment on Mr. Koppell’s statement.
But in an e-mail message Monday, Mr. Klein said he would not approve a state budget that excludes Mr. de Blasio’s plan, which funds universal pre-K through tax hikes on people making $500,000 or more a year. Governor Andrew Cuomo’s budget proposal includes universal preschool without any tax increases.
“Mayor de Blasio’s plan is the only one that provides New York City with the funding it needs to achieve” preschool for thousands of four-year-olds, Mr. Klein said in a statement.
Mr. Klein also blamed Senate Republicans for the current impasse
“Senate Republicans comprise a minority in this chamber — they want more support for business tax cuts and we want more support for our kids,” he stated. “Only by working together can we achieve a balance that works for everyone.”
With a majority of lawmakers from New York City supporting Mr. de Blasio’s plan, the pre-K standoff puts a lot on the line for Mr. Klein’s alliance with Mr. Skelos.