TRENTON — New Jersey taxpayers were billed about $18,000 for government officials’ recent trip to India despite Gov. Phil Murphy’s office’s earlier statements that a privately funded group would pay for the visit, according to records obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press.
Payment vouchers obtained through the state’s open records law show that taxpayers footed the bill for four of the governor’s staffers for airfare to India and lodging as well as the cost of immunizations.
The international airfare and lodging came to about $12,500, with immunization costs making up most of the rest of them.
Murphy spokesman Mahen Gunaratna said in a statement that “the vast majority of expenses” during the six-day trip were covered by Choose, not taxpayers. He pointed to the governor’s announcement during the trip that three India-based companies would be bringing 1,200-plus jobs to the state.
“The Governor’s mission will ultimately pay dividends many times over,” he said in an email.
Murphy, a Democrat, and first lady Tammy Murphy paid their own expenses, according to Gunaratna.
Choose New Jersey, a private-industry funded group, financed other portions of September’s six-day visit.
The group’s president, Jose Lozano, said in a phone interview that Choose paid for meals, travel within India and other “incidentals.” He estimated that the group paid for 97% to 98% of the cost of the trip, but declined to detail the price tag, adding that costs were still coming and being calculated.
In July, when the trip was announced, the administration directed questions about the costs of the trip Choose and said the organization would handle them.
Choose was set up after former Gov. Chris Christie took office in 2010 and financed his trips abroad, including to the United Kingdom, Canada and Mexico.
Typically taxpayers were responsible only for the cost of the state troopers who make up the governor’s security detail.
It’s unclear why the public was billed for part of the India trip.
This was his second overseas trip, but the third country he’s visited as governor. He went to Germany and Israel last October.
The governor has said the trip was as part of an effort to broaden New Jersey’s economic reach.
New Jersey has a large Indian-American population, and the state is a hub for Indian investment in the Northeast, according to the governor’s office.