PRINCETON - As he recovers from serious injuries suffered in a high-speed car accident, Gov. Corzine isn't shying from a political hot potato in New Jersey - using a state-funded helicopter to travel.
Recent governors have been chided for using state helicopters to travel to political and personal events. But after a near-fatal car accident on the Garden State Parkway, Corzine touted traveling by helicopter as practical.
"I have tended to use the helicopter a little more than some of the previous governors already," he said yesterday as he resumed work as governor. "It makes sense. And if there's anything personal, I'll reimburse it, and if it's on state business I think it's appropriate."
During her successful 1993 gubernatorial campaign, Christie Whitman criticized former Gov. Jim Florio's use of a state helicopter, and former Gov. James E. McGreevey was criticized for using a state helicopter to take 14 non-government trips.
Corzine spokesman Anthony Coley said Corzine had used a state helicopter two to three times per month since taking office in January 2006, and a private helicopter three to five times per month. "He rents and pays for a private helicopter when the event he was leaving from or going to is not official state business," Coley said of Corzine, a multimillionaire.
State police have said the state helicopter costs about $3,000 per hour for fuel and the pilot. Corzine said he hoped a special commission cochaired by Whitman that is reviewing the state police unit that protects the governor would determine "that we're a lot better off having a safe and a rested governor."
"And, you know, by the way, whether you're going 91 miles an hour or you're going 75 miles an hour, you're not only a threat to yourself, you potentially put other people at risk," Corzine said. "So I think the more we can use the helicopter, the better off we'll all be served."