TRENTON - After a firestorm of criticism, Gov. Chris Christie made an about-face yesterday, reimbursing the state for his personal use of a state police helicopter because he said the story had become a distraction from the real problems facing the state.

Remaining unapologetic about his use of the helicopter to attend two of his son's baseball games and a political dinner with GOP campaign contributors from Iowa, Christie said that he has reimbursed the state about $2,100 and asked the state Republican Party to pay about $1,200 for his trip to see the donors.

Christie said of the two baseball game trips that he was just trying to balance his role as governor and as a father.

"I'm governor 24-7 . . . but I am also a father. And the fact of the matter is sometime when you are a governor, you do not control your schedule," he said at a bill-signing ceremony in Denville.

Christie's reversal came a day after a spokesman said the governor would not make a reimbursement, defending the trips as appropriate. On Thursday, Christie said state police told him he wasn't required to reimburse the state for use of the helicopter, but told reporters, "I also understand this is a really fun media story for all of you."

After seeing his son's game Tuesday, Christie and his wife used the helicopter to fly 75 miles to the official governor's mansion in Princeton for dinner with a group of top campaign contributors from Iowa, who tried unsuccessfully to persuade Christie to run for president in 2012.