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July 23, 2015

Christie travel expenses targeted by N.J. Dems

They want to prevent non-official business trips out of state from being paid for by taxpayers

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie spends a lot of time outside of the Garden State and his absence is angering Democrats.

Assemblyman Joseph Lagana, D-Bergen, said Wednesday he wants to stop taxpayers from having to pay when New Jersey’s governor takes a trip outside of the state and is going to introduce a bill to do just that.

As a presidential candidate, Christie spends a lot of time in the Republican primary hotbeds of Iowa and New Hampshire. And previously he circulated the country as head of the Republican Governor's Association during the 2014 election cycle, leaving his Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno with the formal authority to run New Jersey.

“No elected leader should be permitted to use the taxpayers’ hard-earned money as a political piggy bank,” Lagana said in a press release that avoided citing Christie by name. “The people of New Jersey are practical enough to understand that there are certain costs naturally associated with the official business of being the state’s chief executive.

“But they also have a reasonable expectation that those costs be assessed judiciously and that public funds be used explicitly for their intended purpose.”

This piece of legislation would prohibit public funds from going to travel unrelated to the governor’s official duties - Lagana's bill targets political travel.

Much of Christie’s trips are paid for by other groups but according to the Asbury Park Press, taxpayers are responsible for some of his security costs. The governor was out of state for at least part of the day about 240 times since the start of 2014, according to the paper.

Christie has long claimed that he is capable of running the state while out on the campaign trail and his spokesman dismissed the Democrat's actions as stagecraft.

“This is just another scene in the endless political drama being acted out by partisans in the Legislature, and there is no point to joining their daily theatrics,” said Brian Murray, Christie's deputy press secretary.

Any legislation that might pass the Democrat-controlled Legislature would have to be signed off by the governor’s office, making it highly unlikely that this bill would become law.

Lagana’s move echoes a similar effort by some Democratic legislators who recently introduced a bill aimed at forcing the resignation of any New Jersey governor who decided to run for president.

“If a governor wants to pursue political interests and, for example, requires security, fiscal responsibility dictates that it should be the governor or the affiliated campaign, not the taxpayers, who foots the bill,” the assemblyman said in a statement.