NASHVILLE - Gov. Christie on Friday defended his decision to award raises to more than two dozen staffers this year, saying he had trimmed the overall Governor's Office budget by $240,000 since the start of his second term in January.
"People who take on more responsibilities deserve more pay," Christie told reporters at a restaurant in Nashville before he was to deliver a keynote speech at the Tennessee Republican Party's 2014 Statesmen's Dinner.
"And, in fact, if my budget in the Governor's Office is a quarter-million dollars less than it was when I was sworn in, I've done the right thing, and I'm showing that we're sacrificing the same way I'm asking other people to sacrifice in difficult budget times," Christie said.
His remarks were in response to an article published online Thursday by the Bergen Record that showed 27 staffers in the Governor's Office - most of them members of his communications and planning teams - had received raises in recent months averaging 23 percent over their salaries last year.
Christie has worked to plug a $2.75 billion revenue shortfall through fiscal 2015 by cutting the state's payments to the pension system and by delaying property-tax rebates, among other things.
In April, Christie vetoed the minutes of a meeting of the Pinelands Commission, which had voted to appropriate money for raises.
In a letter to the commission, Christie called the vote a "conscious disregard of the fiscal realities of the Pinelands Commission generally, and the State of New Jersey in general."
The Record tried to obtain the salary information via Open Public Records Act requests but received it only after filing a lawsuit.
Among those who received raises was a senior scheduler whose $40,000 salary in 2013 increased 50 percent, to $60,000, this year, the newspaper reported.
Many of the staffers had left the administration to work on Christie's reelection campaign last year and returned to higher salaries. Some were promoted to higher positions.
Christie said four senior staffers had left the Governor's Office in recent months, allowing lower-level staff to take on greater responsibility and increased pay.