Governor repays N.J. for helicopter use
TRENTON, N.J. — After a firestorm of criticism, Governor Chris Christie made an about-face yesterday, reimbursing the state for his personal use of a State Police helicopter because he said the story had become a distraction from the real problems facing the state.
Remaining unapologetic about his use of the helicopter to attend two of his son’s baseball games and a political dinner with GOP campaign contributors from Iowa, Christie said he has reimbursed the state about $2,100 and asked the state Republican Party to pay about $1,200 for his trip to see the donors.
He said of the two baseball game trips that he was just trying to balance his role as governor and as a father.
Christie’s reversal came a day after a spokesman said he would not make a reimbursement, defending the trips as appropriate. Yesterday, Christie said State Police told him he wasn’t required to reimburse the state, but told reporters, “I also understand this is a really fun media story for all of you.’’
After seeing his son’s game Tuesday, Christie and his wife used the helicopter to fly 75 miles to the official governor’s mansion in Princeton for dinner with a group of top GOP campaign contributors from Iowa, who tried unsuccessfully to persuade Christie to run for president.
He also used the helicopter to fly from the State House in Trenton last week to see another of his son’s games.
While the flights can cost $2,500 an hour, State Police Superintendent Rick Fuentes on Wednesday said Christie’s use of the helicopter did not cost taxpayers anything extra because the pilots need to put in flying time to keep their skills sharp.
Since taking office in January 2010, Christie has used the helicopter 33 times.