Given the closeness of the Supreme Court decision today and one affirming judge’s concurring opinion with one portion of a dissenting opinion, Gov. Chris Christie has sufficient political room to manuever.
But ultimately the governor faces a Solomon-like decision between property tax relief and education funding, according to an expert.
“Christie has quite a few options here when you consider the fact that there were only three affirmative votes on a bench of seven,” said Monmouth University Pollster/Politicial Scientist Patrick Murray. “One justice even questioned the legitimacy of limiting the decision in the context of the formula and whether you are short-changing poor children who do not live in urban districts. That provides an opening for the governor” to ramp up his challenge of the existing schools funding formula and argue for more even distribution across urban and suburban lines.
Murray said Christie’s recent plunge in popularity is directly tied to the cuts he made in education last year not delivering the substantial property tax relief this year.
“The amount of money needed matches the surplus ($500 million) but I don’t think the governor will take an easy fix,” said the political expert. “In questioning the decision, would he rather use the money for property tax relief or education funding? The key reason his approval has dropped is because the cuts that he made last year were accepted on the promise that property taxes would go down.
“He’s in a tough position,” Murray added, “but the ambiguity of this ruling provides him with an opportunity.”