De Blasio lays out proposals to narrow income gap

State of City talk calls for raising minimum wage in NYC

Bill de Blasio, mayor of New York City, pushed for higher taxes on the rich to fund prekindergarten programs.
Bill de Blasio, mayor of New York City, pushed for higher taxes on the rich to fund prekindergarten programs.

NEW YORK — Mayor Bill de Blasio used his first State of the City address Monday to press government to marshal its power to battle income inequality, a liberal call to action that will be closely watched around the nation.

By virtue of a campaign focused on income disparity and a landslide win that installed him at the helm of the nation’s largest city, de Blasio has become a leading spokesman for a growing movement to narrow the gap between the haves and have-nots.

He promises to help by hiking taxes on the rich to pay for prekindergarten, raising the minimum wage, and providing ID cards for people in the country illegally.


‘‘We’re fighting to give everyone a fair shot,’’ he said Monday during the speech at a community college, ‘‘so that city government doesn’t set its priorities by the needs of those at the very top . . . while ignoring the struggle of those born under a less lucky star.’’

Get This Week in Politics in your inbox:
A weekly recap of the top political stories from The Globe, sent right to your email.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

The first Democrat to deliver the address in more than 20 years, de Blasio unveiled a decidedly left-leaning agenda. His signature issue, to which he devoted the climax of his speech, was to again call for a tax hike on New Yorkers making more than $500,000 a year to pay for universal prekindergarten.

‘‘Many wealthy New Yorkers . . . know that a gilded city isn’t the New York they signed up for, even if they currently find themselves doing quite well,’’ he said. ‘‘Raising taxes on the rich makes our commitment to our kids more than just words.’’

The plan, welcomed in the cities’ liberal circles, has run into obstacles. De Blasio can’t raise taxes without approval from state lawmakers, and Governor Andrew Cuomo has steadfastly refused to consider the issue, instead offering to dedicate existing money in the state budget to pay for the program. And on Monday, even as de Blasio spoke, state Senate Republican leader Dean Skelos told reporters he would not allow legislation containing a tax hike on city residents to advance.

But prekindergarten is not the only front on which de Blasio is pressing state lawmakers in the capital of Albany. He disclosed in the speech that he plans to ask them next week for the power to raise the minimum wage in the city.


‘‘We will send a powerful signal to the people of New York that we honor work and that we are committed to making work pay,’’ he said.

De Blasio, who did not specify what he wanted the new minimum to be, joined a national push to raise wage levels. Last month, President Obama called for the federal wage to be raised from $7.25 to $10. And Cuomo and lawmakers reached a deal last year to raise New York’s minimum wage to $9 by the end of next year.

De Blasio, who expects nearly lockstep cooperation from the Democratic-controlled City Council, also said he wants to expand existing living wage legislation and wanted the municipal ID card to be available to all residents this year regardless of their immigration status.

Previous measures to issue statewide ID cards have faltered, but other US cities, including San Francisco and New Haven, issue similar documentation.