“The battle is over, our side lost and I am very disappointed in the outcome,” said Gayle Kesselman, the group’s president. “But the state of New Jersey is actually the loser.”
She said the rules of the agreement -- that students must be residents and have attended high school in the state for at least three years -- were unenforceable.
“Who is going to enforce that?” she asked. “Who is going to check that? The same government employees who enforce our immigration laws? Every application for in-state tuition will be rubber stamped and nobody will be turned away.”
David Redlawsk, director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling at Rutgers, said it was not surprising that both sides were critical of the compromise, but he did not think it would affect Christie’s national ambitions. It was more important, he said, that the governor not be seen as having broken a promise to the Latino community, because “one of the arguments he is making is that he is a Republican who can reach out to Latinos.”
“It is to his benefit to get it out of the way so he can say, ‘I kept my promise,’” Redlawsk said.
He said it is too early to guess at Christie’s strategy and that it may depend upon the final makeup of the Republican field. If there are multiple conservatives, then he can play to the more moderate elements of his party and hope for the right wing to split its vote, Redlawsk said.
“The (Tuition Equality Act) may position him well so he can say to Republicans ‘we have to be able to reach beyond white males,’” he said.
In the meantime, advocates for the aid component of the legislation said they remain committed, but acknowledged that the governor’s opposition makes it unlikely that it can be approved in the near future.
Ruiz said Democrats will “reinstate the TAG component,” but it may have to wait four years, until after the governor has left office.
“The senate president and I made a commitment that this will happen,” she said.
Sweeney agreed. He said Christie has “made his position clear on this” and Democrats needed to take the best deal available to ensure that students would see a tuition break in the spring. Progress has been made, he added, and that the state is “on the 20-yard line.”
“We’re not going to stop until we score a touchdown,” he said. “But the commitment between my colleagues here is to have full equality. It’s coming, and we will finish th