Christie won’t refund state for chopper travel

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) created a bit of a stir this week, using a state helicopter to travel to his son’s high school baseball game, then using a state car to drive him 100 yards from the landing site to the game itself. Making matters slightly worse, the governor left half-way through the game, had the state car drive him back the 100 yards, and then took the helicopter to a meeting with wealthy Iowans who want him to run for president.

Yesterday, Christie’ office responded to calls that he reimburse the state for the costs of this excursion, announcing the governor doesn’t intend to pay a dime.

Facing broad criticism for flying by helicopter to watch his son’s high school baseball game in Bergen County, Gov. Chris Christie refused today to refund the state for Tuesday’s $2,500-an-hour flight.

“The governor does not reimburse for security and travel,” a spokesman for the governor, Kevin Roberts, said in an e-mail message. “The use of air travel has been extremely limited and appropriate.”

It’s hard to know which political controversies are going to stick, but this flap certainly isn’t doing Christie any favors. His whole message is about austerity: cutting back, making sacrifices, living with less, eliminating waste in government, etc. The use of the chopper, to put it mildly, belies the governor’s larger agenda.

To be sure, Christie isn’t the first New Jersey governor to use state helicopters for personal use. Govs. Jim McGreevey (D) and Christie Whitman (R) both caught hell for doing the same thing — McGreevey took a chopper to a wedding, Whitman used one to go to a hockey game — but both reimbursed the state.

But Christie has already used state helicopters 35 times, including this week’s trip to half a high school baseball game, and doesn’t want to reimburse taxpayers at all.

A Star Ledger editorial today concluded, “Now we know why [Christie] can’t imagine what it’s like to walk a mile in the shoes of regular New Jerseyans: He doesn’t even walk 100 yards in his own.”

Ouch.

Update: This afternoon, Christie backed down. The governor and the State Republican Committee have agreed to reimburse the state for Christie’s personal use of a state police helicopter.