Christie Outlines $200M In Funding Sources For Opioid Programs

Gov. Chris Christie on Monday evening released details of how he plans to fund up to $240 million in programs to fight opioid addiction, nearly two weeks after first announcing the initiatives.

The money will come from a combination of savings on debt service, lapsed funds and revenue from Fiscal Year 2017, Christie said on the monthly “Ask the Governor” radio program on New Jersey 101.5 FM.

Christie, who leaves office in January after eight years, has made anti-addiction efforts the cornerstone of his final year in office and late last month announced 25 related programs he planned to fund that would cost between $160 million and $240 million.

The governor has repeatedly declined to answer specifics about the funding sources, leading to speculation among some Democratic lawmakers and consumer advocates about where the money would come from.

But on the radio Monday evening, Christie outlined the funding sources in detail.

Part of the funding will include $90 million the state saved in debt service due to the deal hammered out during budget negotiations to dedicate the lottery enterprise to fund the state pension system.

“Even though the rating agencies didn’t give us a full upgrade, the investment community has. Just since we put the lottery enterprise bill into effect, which is only three months ago, we have saved $90 million in the capital markets,” Christie said.

Another $70 million, he said, would come from lapsed funds — money the state “had budgeted for that the departments didn’t spend.”

Those funds include $23 million from the Department of Human Services, which breaks down to $7 million from unused substance abuse program funds from last year, $3 million from unused developmental center program funds, and $13 million in savings from Medicaid reforms.

Christie is also counting on $30 million in savings from reforms to the State Health Benefits Plan and $2.6 million in unspent funds from programs in the state Department of Children and Families.

The Legislature allocated $1.9 million for the historic Battleship New Jersey “in the confusion” of the budget negotiations, when the group running the site only required an additional $500,000 on top of its annual $1.4 million appropriation, Christie said. The excess $1.4 million will be diverted to the opioid programs.

The lapsed funds also include around $5 million that had been allocated in the Fiscal Year 2018 budget to expand access to pre-K. Christie said the state received just under $20 million in requests from school districts, so he was diverting the remaining $5.6 million.

There was an additional $6.5 million in leftover funding from tuition aid grants, which provide financial assistance for eligible students who attend New Jersey colleges and universities, Christie said.

Around $1 million had been included in the budget for the state Department of Community Affairs “to help towns consolidate,” but no town had requested to use these funds, Christie said.

The remaining $40 million, "if not more," will likely come from revenues from Fiscal Year 2017, Christie said.

Last year’s spending is being audited and the final report will not be released until February, he said, but there was “every indication” that the funds would be available.

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