Charles WatsonOct 9, 2017, 10:44 pmOct 26, 2017, 4:45 pm

Dems: Gov. Christie’s plan to end addiction would take millions away from pre-K programs

Lawmakers in Trenton say he is using money that should be going to state’s school system

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Governor Chris Christie is under fire from Democratic state leaders for his plan to inject $200 million into the fight against the opioid epidemic across the state.

On his weekly radio address, Christie said that he plans on using the money to expand existing heroin and opioid treatment and to create new addiction treatment programs.

“We're going to take lapsed funds, meaning money that we had budgeted for but departments didn't spend. That's about $70 million,” he said during the radio show.

But according to Democrats in Trenton, at least $16 million of those funds are coming from New Jersey's developmental centers, pre-kindergarten expansion and tuition assistance programs. Money that was brokered between the two sides to end the budget stalemate over the summer.

“We're going back and we're going to talk to him because that was a priority for us,” Senate President Steve Sweeney said.

At a press conference, Christie said the money he used from programs that expanded universal pre-K was left over because only about 15 percent of eligible schools districts applied for it.

Senate President Steve Sweeney and the governor say they are willing to talk this issue out but he maintains that, as governor, he has the discretion to move that money around to be used for public health crises.

“We funded every bit of what we were authorized to fund. And every school district that asked for the expansion got the full amount that they asked for and that left us with $5.6 million. What were we supposed to do with that money? Add it to the surplus?” Christie said.

Advocates of New Jersey's pre-K expansion program "Pre-K Our Way released a statement refuting the governor's claims, saying that "the fact is the governor's action stops implementation early in the academic year, thereby stopping the use of the funding for its intended purpose: expanding pre-K programs. Without the governor's action, these funds would be available."

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