Gov: Constitutional ball in legislature’s court

In a press conference, Gov. Chris Christie today called the state Supreme Court’s ruling on Abbott v. Burke “disappointing but not unexpected,” and underscored his own opinion that it is not the role of the court to dictate policy.

“A number of the members agreed with that,” said the governor, noting the 3-2 split on the court, which mandated an additional $500 million to fund poor urban school districts.

However, “I realize that regardless of my personal beliefs, I must comply with the constitutional requirement,” the governor said.

The legislature – not the governor – must balance the budget.

“The Constitutional ball is now in the legislature’s court,” Christie said.

He minimized the effect that $500 million will have on the schools, noting that he never believed money was the answer to correcting school deficiencies.

“The idea that this $500 million will have any kind of marked difference,” Christie said, when the state is already spending $4.5 billion, “another half a billion is going to put it over the top?”

But for now it’s not his problem. “If this had come in January, I would have been responsible,” he said. And if the legislature wants to spend above the $500 million required? “I’ll consider it when it comes (to my desk),” he said.

“It’s up to them,” he said. “They agreed with what I did last year…That’s why the court’s order today is not just to me, it’s to the people who passed the bill in the first place, the legislature…They can now express the priorities of the majority to me.”

State Sen. Ray Lesniak (D-20) earlier today told Street Wire that the court’s decision makes it imperative for the legislature to pass and the governor to sign a re-up of the so-called millionaire’s tax.

Christie said no way. “I said very clearly that I don’t believe in raising taxes,” the governor told reporters. “It’s now time for them to come forward with a balanced, constitutional budget.”

“This is a sharply divided court,” he said. “These are not minor disagreements.”

He said the court resurrected the abandoned designation of 31 Abbott districts, “leaving out another 550 (school districts) again for any aid and any help.”

“This is our system,” he said, clearly indicating a yearning to fix an educational interface that the three branches of government have endured for years. Gov: Constitutional ball in legislature’s court