TRENTON -- Gov. Chris Christie is releasing more than $53 million in aid to towns that he had ordered held until savings in New Jersey's health plan were identified.

The Republican governor said in a statement Monday that the committee tasked with identifying $250 million in health savings for public pensioners voted to approve "common sense" savings. Details about that vote were not immediately available.

"I am pleased the State Health Benefits Plan Design Committee voted to approve common sense health plan savings that begin to address the $250 million budget deficit," Christie said.

Joseph Perone, a spokesman for the treasury, which oversees the State Health Benefits Plan Design Committee, confirmed the state was returning $53.7 million to towns that Christie ordered to be held in June until the savings were identified. He added that various changes to rates would be reflected in the 2017 plan that must still be approved.

Also in June, Christie held about $45 million for other legislative priorities including rape prevention. He said Monday those funds will be held until more savings are enacted

In 2016, transitional aid went to about a dozen towns across the state, including $33 million for Atlantic City and its school district, $12 million for Camden and more than $25 million for Patterson.

The announcement comes after Christie earlier criticized the committee for failing to identify the savings and the Democrats who control the Legislature for sending the governor a budget that assumed $250 million in savings but did not actually implement the cuts.

(Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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