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De Blasio Meets With Clergy, Demands Vote For Universal Pre-K Funding Proposal

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) -- Mayor Bill de Blasio continued his push for universal pre-kindergarten before members of clergy Tuesday morning.

The mayor attended a breakfast with the leader of one of the city's largest congregations. Rev. A. R. Bernard leads the 37,000-member Christian Cultural Center and is on board with the mayor's plan.

To fund universal pre-K and after-school programs, Mayor de Blasio has called for a tax on New Yorkers earning at least $500,000 a year.

As WCBS 880's Rich Lamb reported, de Blasio told the pastors of more than 200 churches that he demanded a vote in Albany on his plan to tax the rich to fund universal pre-K.

De Blasio Meets With Clergy, Demands Vote For Universal Pre-K Funding Proposal

"Let's not sugarcoat it. People of this city demand something for our children and we are told we don't even get a vote in Albany, as if our children don't matter. Is that acceptable to you? Are we just going to take that lying down? Should we go to Albany and let them know?" de Blasio said.

The Rev. Al Sharpton led the pastors in chanting "we want a vote."

The breakfast was organized by UPKNYC, a grassroots campaign pushing for universal pre-K.

The New York City Council had scheduled a hearing Tuesday on a resolution of support for the mayor's plan.

However, Republican leader Dean Skelos of Nassau County said he won't introduce the tax hike on the Senate floor, CBS 2's Tony Aiello reported, joining other state lawmakers who continue to oppose the plan, arguing it would send the wealthy packing.

"The last thing we need is to see high earners leave New York, because then we lose their tax dollars," Skelos said.

De Blasio said at Tuesday's Brooklyn church rally that he was "miffed'' at Skelos, because he thought they were working toward a deal.

"Sen. Skelos in Albany refuses to bring this plan to a vote, denying us our rights in a democracy. It's as simple as that. Let's not sugarcoat it," de Blasio said.

The mayor has made the plan the centerpiece of his first months in office.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo in his State of the State address proposed statewide universal pre-K funded by existing state revenues, a plan Skelos apparently supports, Aiello reported. Cuomo, who is up for re-election this year, has said he doesn't want to raise taxes on anyone this year.

When asked if Skelos is doing the governor's dirty work, Baruch College pundit David Birdsell said, "Well, I think it makes it easier for the governor to point to someone else as the principal stumbling block, at least at this stage."

Meanwhile, the state Senate's top Democrat voiced his support for de Blasio's pre-K plan but stopped short of demanding a new tax to pay for it.

State Sen. Jeff Klein told reporters Tuesday he could support the tax, but he declined to call the tax necessary for a pre-K deal. He said every alternative has to be on the table at this point.

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