Gov. Chris Christie and the state GOP will reimburse the state for the in Bergen County, the governor said Thursday.
The Republican State Committee paid $1,232.29 for the Tuesday flight, while Christie paid the other half of the $2,465 bill. Christie also paid $919.20 for a flight on Friday. Christie said Thursday that he initially did not feel he needed to reimburse the state, but changed his mind in order to "focus on the really important issues to the people of the State of New Jersey."
"My initial reaction to not reimbursing was I was told there is nothing to reimburse for," Christie said in Denville on Thursday. "Those helicopters are up in the air and required to be up in the air not only for various assignments they have but also because hours are needed to be logged on a regular weekly basis by these pilots in order to keep their certifications."
"There's a bottom line," he continued. "I'm governor 24/7 every single day, but I am also a father and the fact of the matter is that sometimes when you are governor you do not control your schedule. And so if you want to try to do all the things people want you to do as governor, and also be a father and try to make sure you get to as many of the things for your kids that you want to be at, there are times it is literally impossible to do that by car and two of those instances came up in the last week."
Christie faced strong criticism Wednesday for using the state police helicopter to travel to his son's baseball game in Montvale.
As first reported by Patch, Christie landed on a sports field at St. Joseph Regional High School Tuesday afternoon, minutes before his son was about to take the field as the catcher for the Delbarton School in their playoff game against St. Joe's. He and his wife, Mary Pat, left in the helicopter after the 5th inning. The governor then headed to Princeton to meet with a group of Iowa donors who were trying to recruit him to run for president.
State Police Superintendent Rick Fuentes defended the flight on Wednesday, saying the flight hours would have been accumulated anyway on the aircraft, as pilots become accustomed to the new helicopters. The state police oversees security for the governor.
Christie said he tries to balance his responsibilities as governor and as a father.
"With my son, how long you are going to be in the state tournament? You win you're in, you lose you're out," he said. "We tried to balance me being governor and the demands on that with my responsibility of being a father. And I am also going to balance that as hard as i can toward my responsibilities as a dad, not just because I feel responsible for it, but because I want to."
But he also said he understood that the helicopter ride made for "political theater and media theater that people enjoy at times."
"I also understand that this is a really fun media story for all of you. I get it," Christie said. "And that you like to write about these things and so the fact is that i have a lot of important work to do. I got a $54 billion pension underfunding I'm tryng to solve, a $67 billion health insurance problem I'm trying to solve and if me writing a check for 2,100 bucks and a $1200 check from the state committee to pay for these two helicopter rides will allow us to to focus on the really important issues to the people of the state of New Jersey then I am willing to do it."
Christie said that he and Mary Pat wrote their check to the state treasury on Thursday.