Lovett: De Blasio’s pre-K tax gets support in Legislature

Senate co-leader Jeffrey Klein, D-Bronx, on Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2013, in Albany, N.Y.

AP Photo/Mike Groll/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Senate co-leader Jeffrey Klein (D-Bronx) says Bill de Blasio’s plan to use tax hikes on the wealthy to fund universal prekindergarten ‘has a lot of merit.’

ALBANY — On the eve of Tuesday’s mayoral election, Democratic front-runner Bill de Blasio’s push to tax the wealthy to pay for universal prekindergarten has received crucial support in the Legislature.

Senate co-leader Jeffrey Klein, who had backed former city Controller Bill Thompson in the Democratic mayoral primary, says he will aggressively push for passage of the city tax hike plan during next year’s state budget talks.

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“I think his proposal has a lot of merit,” Klein (D-Bronx) said. “I want to become the major advocate on behalf of it.”

Klein — head of a group of four breakaway Democrats who run the chamber with the GOP — said de Blasio’s plan to raise taxes on those making more than $ 500,000 a year “is not taxing for the sake of just taxing. This is for a really important purpose.”

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Klein’s position could put him at odds with Senate Republicans and Gov. Cuomo, who have said they want to cut, not raise, taxes next year. Cuomo and the Republicans also have said they agree with the idea of expanding prekindergarten, leading insiders to believe they will seek a way to fund de Blasio’s plan without raising taxes.

With Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) also in favor of de Blasio’s plan, insiders say Klein’s position could up pressure on Cuomo to jump onboard to try to improve an uneasy relationship with the liberal wing of his party heading into an election year.

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Klein’s public support for the tax hike comes among heightened tension between the breakaway Democrats on one side and Cuomo and the regular Dems on the other.

Cuomo reportedly has discussed possibly backing a primary against Klein next year. And last week, Cuomo’s handpicked state Democratic Party executive director urged another breakaway Democrat, state Sen. Diane Savino of Staten Island, to get out of the party after she co-sponsored a bill with a Republican to boost the independence of investigative committees created by a governor.

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Klein denied that his backing for de Blasio’s proposal was linked to recent Dem-on-Dem skirmishes.

klovett@nydailynews.com

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