TRENTON, N.J. — To critics who say he shouldn't be lounging on a beach off-limits to taxpayers during the New Jersey government shutdown, Gov. Chris Christie says, "Well, I’m sorry ... they’re not the governor.''
Christie made the comment early Monday during a telephone interview on WTXF-TV in Philadelphia. He said he was calling from the state governor's summer residence at Island Beach State Park, where he was photographed by The (Newark) Star-Ledger sitting with his family on a beach chair in sandals and a T-shirt on Sunday.
"This is a residence," said Christie. "We have a residence in Princeton as well. And that place is a place where people can go and tour, but they can’t if the government is closed. Am I supposed to move out and stay in a hotel?"
Christie defended his use of the state property during the shutdown that affected the public, which is being kept out of state parks with signs blaming Democratic Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto, on Saturday, saying: "That's the way it goes. Run for governor, and you can have the residence."
On Sunday, Christie was asked whether he had gotten any sun that day, to which he said he didn't. After the pictures were posted, the governor's spokesman agreed that Christie didn't get any sun; he said Christie was wearing a baseball hat.
Still, Christie said people shouldn't have been surprised by the pictures. Spokesman Brian Murray had said Christie was headed to the beach house Saturday night.
"This is an incredible scandal as you know. They actually caught a politician being where he said he was going to be with the people he said he was going to be with," Christie said.
In an interview on WNYW-TV in New York, Christie said, "I really wonder about journalists who spend money flying planes to look for people where they actually said they'd be."
Few lawmakers were around the statehouse Sunday, and Christie said that unless he sent state police to retrieve them he could not force them to be there.
Christie, for at least the second time, referred to himself as "Mr. Reasonable" and said he would consider the Democratic budget along with legislation to overhaul the state's biggest health insurer, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield. Or without the Horizon legislation he has called for, he would line item veto about $350 million of the Democratic priorities.
Over the weekend and Monday, the public began feeling the effects of the shutdown.
Among those affected were Cub Scouts forced to leave a state park campsite and people trying to obtain or renew documents from the state motor vehicle commission.
Many took to Twitter to voice their opinions on Christie's beach use.
Not everyone blames Christie for the beach closures though.
Joe Nasso of Fair Lawn has a summer house at the Shore and had a different take on who was to blame.
Nasso made the point that Democrats control both houses of the state Legislature and therefore the state’s purse strings.
“Friends and family were planning on going into the park, so obviously, it’s affected them,” Nasso said.
Remaining open under the shutdown are New Jersey Transit, state prisons, the state police, state hospitals and treatment centers as well as casinos, race tracks and the lottery.
Liberty State Park was closed, forcing the suspension of ticket sales and ferry service from the site to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. But the latter two sites remained open.
Jordan reports for the Asbury Park (N.J.) Press; Racioppi reports for The (Bergen County, N.J.) Record. Contributing: Katie Sobko, The (Bergen County, N.J.) Record; Erik Larsen, Asbury Park (N.J.) Press; and The Associated Press. Follow Bob Jordan and Dustin Racioppi on Twitter: @bobjordanAPP and @dracioppi
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