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Governor reimburses New Jersey for helicopter flight

By Katie Silver, CNN
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NJ governor reimburses copter flight
  • Gov. Chris Christie pays back $2,151 for helicopter flight to son's baseball game
  • State GOP pays $919 to cover flight to political event in Princeton after the game
  • "I'm governor 24/7, every single day, but I'm also a father," Christie says
  • Democratic assemblywoman calls it "outright abuse of taxpayer dollars"

New York (CNN) -- New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie announced Thursday he has reimbursed the state of New Jersey for the cost of using a state police helicopter to travel with his wife to his son's high school baseball game.

The Republican has come under fire from opposition lawmakers and the public since he touched down Tuesday near the ball field in Montvale, about 80 miles from Trenton, the capital.

After initially refusing to reimburse the state, Christie has repaid $2,151 to cover the cost of his flights to the game, Christie said in a news conference.

"What I know about this business is, perception matters," Christie said. "I'm not going to allow the media and the hacks of the Democratic power to ... get away from the matter because they want to have a circus."

Christie claimed he was using the helicopter to balance his responsibilities as a father with his busy schedule as governor.

"I'm governor 24/7, every single day, but I'm also a father," he said.

Christie, who has taken 33 helicopter flights since assuming office last January, said he has been far more "judicious" in his helicopter use than other recent governors, citing Govs. Jim McGreevey, Thomas Kean and James Florio.

"If you look at the way I use this helicopter, it's not like I'm using it as a perk of office," he said.

The Republican budget hawk added that according to the State Police, the travel does not cost taxpayers money, because as the pilots need the flying time in order to be certified.

When asked, the governor reiterated that he will not be running for president in the coming election but has refused to "rule out" 2016.

The GOP paid for a portion of the helicopter rides, $919, to cover the cost of Christie's flight from the ballgame to Princeton, where he met with GOP contributors visiting from Iowa, according to Andy Pratt of the New Jersey Treasury.

Still, some Democrats were not swayed.

"To use these vehicles to shuttle between both a personal and a political activity is an outright abuse of taxpayer dollars," said Democrat Assemblywoman Joan Quigley.

The former federal prosecutor, who earned a reputation for battling corruption, was elected on a platform of fiscal discipline and eliminating government waste and abuse.

During his first year in office, Christie helped to pass a $29 billion budget, narrowing an $11 billion deficit with cuts in public-sector spending, including employee pensions and benefits.

The governor has since called for some $200 million in tax cuts. He has focused on spending reductions on public unions -- particularly the state's powerful teachers' unions -- who often have said the governor has used them as an excuse for the state's broader financial troubles.