Newly minted New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to fund universal pre-Kindergarten by taxing the rich is proving too far left even for some big-name Democrats. The latest of these to back away from endorsing the program is Sen. Chuck Schumer, who abstained from supporting the plan this weekend.
Sen. Schumer visited George Stephanopoulos on This Week Sunday and, when asked about the plan, said that he was “leaving it up to de Blasio and [New York Governor Andrew] Cuomo to work that one out.” While Sen. Schumer did note that he has often been an advocate of higher taxes, he noted that there was a big difference between increasing them on a federal level and increasing them on a state level. Statewide, he argued, residents could simply move away to a different state if taxes get too unwieldy, which is not of particular concern federally. Even so, Sen. Schumer half-joked that he had “enough trouble at the federal level” without getting involved in the universal pre-K war.
That Sen. Schumer is leaving it up to de Blasio and Cuomo to handle the matter does not only keep the senator from endorsing a program many see as unduly burdensome on higher-income New Yorkers. It also keeps him from having to take sides between de Blasio and Cuomo themselves. Governor Cuomo has been among those not to fully endorse the de Blasio program, merely claiming that it is “exactly right” while not offering any state-level planning or aid to make it happen. Liking the program while not wanting to implement it makes perfect sense given where de Blasio and Cuomo are in their campaign cycles respectively: de Blasio newly inaugurated, Cuomo up for reelection.
Raising taxes on anyone making more than $500,000 (that is to say, your donors) while trying to run for office is a tall order. And Cuomo has responded to it by trying to have his cake and eat it, too, proposing to fund a universal pre-K program with the state budget already existing. As Capital New York explains, this move “would force de Blasio either to accept the governor’s plan instead of his own or to continue to push for the tax, even though a key part of his goal had very conspicuously been met without it.” So it is not outside the realm of possibility to consider Cuomo’s proposal a way to disarm de Blasio from his radical tax plan.
Sen. Schumer’s move, on the other hand, is to try to walk away as discreetly as possible from a ticking time bomb. Universal pre-K was not the only major issue for which de Blasio wants reform (and higher taxes) in his city, nor the only one that promises some controversy as de Blasio pursues a radical progressive agenda. Better to step away early, it seems, for the Senator, and focus on bringing a Democratic– but to the right of de Blasio–agenda to Congress that won’t sour the New York public on him as much as something like de Blasio’s plan seems to have the potential to do.
Watch Sen. Schumer’s comments on This Week via Breitbart TV: