New York Mayor Bill de Blasio targets income gap 'threat'

The Democratic politician wants to raise taxes on the wealthy

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New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has pledged to raise the minimum wage and issue ID papers to undocumented immigrants.

Setting out the policies of his new administration in a State of the City address, Mr de Blasio took aim at the city's yawning inequality gap.

The 52-year-old also wants to raise taxes on the wealthy to fund universal pre-kindergarten programmes.

Elected in November, he is New York's first Democratic mayor in two decades.

'More success stories'

In Monday's speech, Mr de Blasio said: "We understand that allowing the income gap to stretch further isn't simply a threat to those at the bottom but to every New Yorker."

Mayor de Blasio warns that New York faces a crisis of inequality, that while Wall Street has bounced back to new highs after the recession, the ladder to the American dream has been pulled out of sight for many Americans.

He rejected the idea that he is sowing the seeds of class war, but demanded that the work of all should be valued, not just those at the top.

He insists property developers build cheaper homes alongside luxury ones. There's a promise to raise the minimum wage and to put taxes upon the wealthy to pay for pre-school education.

But he also admitted doing the central economic part of this in a fiscally responsible way would be hard. His promise to raise taxes puts him head to head with presumably many of the most powerful people in the city.

The married father of two chose a Queens community college to make one of the most important speeches of his young administration.

It was a relatively low-key venue compared with the stylish new Brooklyn Nets arena where his three-term predecessor, Michael Bloomberg, gave his last State of the City address.

"We want to ensure that New Yorkers aren't relegated to the ranks of the poor when putting in a full week's work," Mr de Blasio said of raising the minimum wage.

"We will send a powerful signal to the people of New York, that we honour work... and that we are committed to making work pay."

He also said his administration would help an estimated half a million undocumented New Yorkers out of a city of eight million residents.

"To all of my fellow New Yorkers who are undocumented, I say New York City is your home too," he said, "and we will not force any of our residents to live their lives in the shadows."

Of his plans to follow through on a central campaign pledge by delivering universal pre-kindergarten, Mr de Blasio said it would tax the wealthy not to "punish success" but to "create more success stories".

Although the city council is controlled by Mr de Blasio's Democratic allies, the minimum-wage plan needs support from the New York state governor, Andrew Cuomo, to become law.

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Mr Cuomo is also a Democrat, but he is facing an election in November and has refused to raise taxes, instead proposing to fund universal pre-kindergarten out of the state budget.

Later this week, Mr de Blasio will deliver another important speech, outlining his plans for the city's $70bn (£42bn) budget.

The New York mayor has cheered liberal supporters with some of his stances early in his administration.

Last week, he said he would not attend next month's St Patrick's Day Parade because of its ban on marchers who carry gay-pride signs.

He would be the first New York City mayor in two decades to boycott the event.

Mr de Blasio has also signalled a possible ban on horse carriages that carry tourists around New York City's Central Park, saying it is inhumane to the animals.

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