Public Advocate Bill de Blasio wants to be known as the ambition candidate–at least when it comes to his policy book.
“One of my opponents, Speaker Quinn, has a very clear pattern throughout her time as speaker for offering small solutions, solutions that don’t reach many people,” Mr. de Blasio said at a press conference just outside City Hall today, less than two weeks away from the primary “Small approaches that really don’t change the fundamental reality. They sound good in a press release but they don’t get us very far.”
Mr. de Blasio, the new front-runner in the Democratic primary for mayor, is facing mounting criticism for his signature campaign proposal: a tax on city residents earning more than $500,000 that would fund universal pre-kindergarten for public school children. While the plan has been hailed by some progressive activists, Mr. de Blasio’s opponents and other critics have called the proposal unrealistic because it would require the approval of the State Legislature, where there is currently little appetite to approve a tax increase.
Both Bill Thompson and Council Speaker Christine Quinn have panned the proposal, holding conference calls and press conferences to highlight the inherent difficulty of getting it passed in Albany. Ms. Quinn’s campaign has called the plan a “legislative long-shot.”
But Mr. de Blasio struck back today, bringing supportive state legislators like State Senator Bill Perkins and Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh to argue for the plan’s viability. Mr. de Blasio mocked the policies Ms. Quinn has advanced during the course of her campaign, including a loan for families who are struggling to find childcare.
“In its first version, it would reach only 40 families,” he said, switching over to a favorite topic: Ms. Quinn’s “watered-down” living wage bill. “She offered finally to support a living wage bill, but the bill she chose to support would only help 400, 500 families in a city of 8.4 million people … It’s important to think big.”
Mr. de Blasio said previous governors had secured tax increases in Albany and enough political will would make his far-reaching plan possible. His supporters agreed, insisting that even with the Democrats failing to control a majority in the State Senate–the upper chamber is governed by Republicans and a breakaway Democratic faction–Mr. de Blasio’s tax hike could be achieved.
“Big bold idea: Brooklyn Bridge. New York City–Big bold idea: Empire State Building. New York City,” Mr. Perkins boomed, insisting the five boroughs are the place where ambitious projects could be achieved. “We have a governor in this state that I believe believes in big bold ideas and will support this legislation. We have, as quiet as it’s kept, a Democratic majority in the state that I believe will be convinced to support this big bold idea for the children of New York City.”
But a skeptical Quinn campaign fired right back at Mr. de Blasio.
“There is only one person in this race who has passed an inspector general bill, passed a living wage bill, passed a paid sick bill, got mandatory kindergarten passed, and saved the jobs of 4,100 teachers,” Quinn spokesman Mike Morey said in a statement. “Trust it wasn’t the guy who couldn’t figure out the math for a pre-K plan that every Albany insider has said won’t pass.”