Plan for opioid treatment — proof ‘Christie cannot be trusted?’
Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto Tuesday blasted Gov. Chris Christie for some of the budget lapses that will be used to help cobble together an estimated $200 million more in funds for opioid-related programs.
Christie outlined the budget changes Monday on New Jersey 101.5's "Ask the Governor." Prieto specifically criticized the lapse of $6.5 million that had been added to the budget for Tuition Aid Grants and $5.6 million from what was added to expand preschool programs.
“This is further proof that Gov. Christie cannot be trusted," Prieto said.
Christie agreed in July to sign the state budget without using his veto authority to delete line items Democratic lawmakers had added, as he has in past years. Those items cost around $325 million in total.
Christie, who did use his line-item veto authority to delete language from the budget ensuring the preschool expansion funds would go only to districts with high concentrations of at-risk students, said the state received less than $20 million in bids for a portion of the $25 million that had been added for preschool.
"That's funds the districts didn't want, even when we put it out for the bidding for the schools that were eligible," Christie said.
Christie also said there was $6.5 million left over from what had been appropriated for TAG grants, after grants were given out based on the eligibility criteria. That's the total amount that Democrats had added to the budget for the program.
Prieto said Christie "promised to spend this money" and that it was his job to find creative ways to expand the programs.
"Gov. Christie is not a man of his word," Prieto said.
“The opioid epidemic is a crisis that everyone supports confronting, but leaving at-risk children behind and making college less affordable should not be options," he said. "Fortunately, New Jersey gets a new governor soon. Unfortunately, it’s not soon enough, but at the very least we should put to rest this much-hyped notion – by some – that Gov. Christie is a man of his word.”
Christie last month detailed 25 initiatives responding to the opioid addiction epidemic, costing between $160 million and $240 million.
He said Monday that the programs would be covered through $90 million in savings through refinancing state debt, $70 million from lapses and at least $40 million in extra revenue the state collected in the fiscal year that ended in July beyond what had been anticipated.
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