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Cuomo Reveals Universal Pre-K Plan in Budget Address

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With his re-election campaign looming, Governor Andrew Cuomo unveiled Tuesday his proposed $137 billion budget, including a plan to fully fund pre-kindergarten across the state and create publicly financed elections. NY1's Zack Fink filed the following report.

Governor Andrew Cuomo is proclaiming that for the first time since 2008, the state will be running a surplus, amounting to $500 million this year and up to $2 billion by 2017.

Cuomo wants to use much of that money for tax cuts, but he also wants universal pre-Kindergarten statewide.

"The state will pay for it, and the state will be proud to pay for it," Cuomo said. "It's a priority. We believe in children. We believe in pre-k. We believe in education. Let's put our money where our mouth is."

The governor's plan dramatically differs from Mayor Bill de Blasio's call for universal pre-k in the five boroughs, with a dedicated tax on the wealthy to pay for it.

Cuomo said that the money can come from what's known as the state's general fund, $1.5 billion over the next five years. That potentially puts legislative Democrats in a tricky position over whose plan to support: the mayor's or the governor's.

"We have 65 members from the city of New York in the Democratic conference," said Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. "They will evaluate what the mayor proposes and how much the governor's proposal goes toward satisfying that and what kind of guarantees there are, and they'll make their determination accordingly."

Republicans say that Cuomo's plan renders de Blasio's tax unnecessary.

"Nobody has made the case that you need to raise taxes," said Dean Skelos, the leader of the state Senate's Republican conference.

Pleasing advocates of campaign finance reform, Cuomo called for publicly funded campaigns with a 6 to 1 matching system like New York City's.

This proposal failed in the legislature last year, but by putting it in the budget, Cuomo forces lawmakers to accept it or risk voting down the entire budget.

"The bad news is, there'll be more work to get the budget passed because this is more than just a budget document. There's a lot of program work," Cuomo said. "The good news is, it will make the rest of the session simpler."

The budget is due April 1.

The $137 billion budget does not include the rest of the federal Hurricane Sandy relief funds, which will be distributed over the next year. When that money is counted, the budget balloons to $142 billion.

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