FREEHOLD, N.J. - Gov. Christie said Tuesday that Democratic lawmakers will block him from filling a lingering vacancy on the New Jersey Supreme Court for the rest of his time as governor, which he said impedes his ability to tamp down property taxes by changing funding mandates for school districts with poor students.
At a town hall-style meeting, the Republican governor described his fight over a school-funding formula that the Supreme Court has upheld as the biggest frustration of his tenure.
While he said he had tried to address the issue by putting different justices on the court, Senate Democrats "have flat out told me they will not permit me to fill" the remaining vacant seat because they do not want a Republican majority.
A spokesman for Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D., Gloucester) declined to comment.
The governor, a potential presidential candidate in 2016, has been accused by some conservatives of failing to adequately reshape New Jersey's court.
After Christie in 2010 took the unprecedented step of not renominating sitting Justice John Wallace, a Democrat, some of his nominees hit a roadblock in the Senate. The governor broke the stalemate last year by renominating Democratic Chief Justice Stuart Rabner while also getting a Republican, Lee Solomon, added to the seven-member court.
Christie's comments came in response to a question about the impact of school funding on property taxes.
The governor came to this Monmouth County community as part of his push for changes to public worker benefits. He said he would continue to hold weekly meetings in the state through June.
He also was questioned about fiscal issues, including his efforts to bring businesses to the state and repeated downgrades of the state's debt by credit-rating agencies during his tenure.
Christie said he was trying to keep the state affordable by keeping taxes down. He said the state's credit rating would improve if changes to the pension system were made to reduce budget pressures.
"This is what I'm trying to do to affect that," he said of his pension proposal, which would require givebacks from public workers on their health benefits.
Christie also faced a question on Hurricane Sandy recovery from a 12-year-old boy, Zachary Seemar, who told the governor his family was living in a camper next to its storm-damaged house in Brick.
His parents, who were at the meeting, later said they had been unable to get a building permit from the township. They had not sought grant money through the state, they said.
Christie asked Seemar to write down his family's address and phone number, telling him someone would be in touch the next day.
Seemar's mother, Kathleen, said she appreciated Christie's response.
"I know he's trying," she said. Her husband, Andrew, said he had "mixed feelings about it."
"We're not the only story," Andrew Seemar said, referring to others affected by the storm.