Christie to spend $200 million on opioid programs; here’s where he’s getting it
Gov. Chris Christie said Monday the estimated $200 million the state needs to expand opioid-related programs will come from debt-service savings, lapses of unspent funds and extra tax revenue the state collected last fiscal year.
Christie detailed the sources on New Jersey 101.5’s “Ask the Governor.” He had been unwilling to share those details when rolling out the 25-point plan two weeks ago, saying he didn’t want it to overshadow the details of the plans themselves.
“Three buckets,” Christie said. “Debt service savings, $90 million. Seventy million dollars in lapsed programs, and I went through the specifics, which lapsed programs. And then the rest of it will be made up for with the increased revenue above where we predicted the revenue to be.”
Christie said the lapses are possible because some funding that has been appropriated in budgets was then not spent. Specifically:
- In the Department of Human Services, $7 million from substance abuse programs, $13 million from Medicaid savings and $3 million that developmental centers did not spend.
- The budget included $25 million for expanding prekindergarten programs, but the state Department of Education received less than $20 million in requests. That makes $5.6 million available to be lapsed.
- From the Department of the Treasury, $30 million saved from changes to the State Health Benefits Program.
- The Battleship New Jersey was given an additional $1.9 million in last year’s budget when it requested additional funds from the Legislature – but it actually needed only $500,000 more, on top of the $1.4 million it was getting. That additional $1.4 million will be diverted.
- There was $6.5 million unspent that had been budgeted for Tuition Aid Grants.
- In the Department of Children & Families, $2.6 million is being lapsed. Christie didn’t detail the specific program.
- In the Department of Community Affairs, all $1 million that had been budgeted to help towns cover costs associated with consolidations was lapsed, after no towns consolidated.
Christie said the $90 million in reduced debt-service costs are the result of the law enacted in July that dedicates profits from the state lottery, roughly $1 billion a year, to the pension funds.
“As a result, when we’ve gone back out to refinance our debt, we have a lot more interest and lower rates,” Christie said. “Even though the rating agencies didn’t give us a full upgrade, the investment community has.”
On Monday, the state Treasury Department said that if the state issues $3.7 billion of new bonds and refinanced bonds, as it has over the last six years, the total savings would come to $191 million a year.
The Treasury Department said the state received $3.4 billion in orders from investors last week when it issued $350 million in school-construction bonds. Compared with rates from the state’s last two bond sales, the state realized $32 million in debt service savings, Treasury said.
Christie said the expanded opioid programs his administration is putting in place will cost between $160 million and $240 million, with $200 million the midway point in the estimate.
“The good news is revenues for 2017, fiscal year 2017, are at least enough to cover that remaining $40 million, if not more. We’re going through the audit process right now to make sure that the funds are what we think they need to be,” Christie said.
“That will be announced in February,” he said. “But our indications are that if all we need is another $40 million more to get to $200 (million), that we’ll have at least that if not significantly more.”