NJ governor reimburses state for chopper flights

June 4, 2011

By BETH DeFALCO, Bloomberg News

Trying to be a good dad has come at a high price this week for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

The usually austere first-term Republican paid in cash and in criticism for his use a police helicopter to see his son play baseball.

The unapologetic governor on Thursday reimbursed the state $2,100 himself and $1,200 from the state Republican Party to cover the cost of two helicopter flights to see his oldest son, Andrew, star in two baseball tournament games.

“Afterwards, he said to me, `Dad, thanks for coming,” Christie recalled at a news conference in Denville.

Democrats had a less heart-warming response when learning of Christie’s use of a month-old, $12.5 million state police helicopter to shuttle him from the Statehouse to the ballpark. They have called for hearings to look into the governor’s personal use of the perk and called Christie a hypocrite for wasteful spending.

Christie’s announcement Thursday that he was cutting a check to cover the cost was a rare about-face for the tough-talking governor.

A day before, Christie’s spokesman said the governor wouldn’t pay for the transportation, calling the flights appropriate and Christie’s use of the helicopter judicious.

Less than 24 hours later, Christie — whose national reputation as a fiscal hawk and champion of political ethics was being called into question — said he was paying not because he believed he was in the wrong, but because the furor had become a distraction from serious matters.

“If me writing a check for $2,100 and a $1,200 check coming from state (GOP) committee to pay for two helicopter rides will allow us to focus on the really important issues to the state of New Jersey,” Christie said, “then I’m willing to do it.”

Christie said he didn’t initially think that he had to pay because the State Police assured him there was no additional expense to taxpayers because pilots needed to log the flying hours to keep their skills sharp.

He said he chose to fly to his son’s ballgames because there was no other way to get there in time. And, he made no apologies about going.

“We tried to balance me being governor, and my demands on that, with my responsibility as a father,” Christie said.

To read more, visit: http://www.businessweek.com/ap/financialnews/D9NKD8L00.htm


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