Gov. Chris Christie said Tuesday that he's adding $10 million to New Jersey's efforts this year to remove lead-based paint from homes around the state.
The money would offer up to $20,000 per unit that is owned or rented by low and moderate income families.
A large chunk of New Jersey's housing stock pre-dates a 1978 ban on lead paint. In 2003, about one million homes statewide, many of them in low-income areas, posed a risk of lead poisoning through chipped or crumbling paint, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report.
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"We're working hard and making sure that lead poisoning, while it's a concern, never becomes and epidemic in New Jersey," Christie said.
Christie's announcement follows months of calls from Democratic lawmakers to put that same amount of money into a dormant program with the same goal of lead abatement.
Pending legislation from Democrats would replenish New Jersey's Lead Hazard Control Assistance Fund, which a tax on paint cans was supposed to finance when it was created in 2004.
The fund briefly provided assistance to property owners who wanted to safely remove lead paint from their homes or rental units, according to the Office of Legislative Services. But starting with Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine, some and eventually most of the fund's money was diverted to other parts of the budget.
Christie said the state never actually knew how much money the paint tax generated and criticized claims the lead fund was raided. He said the state already budgets $7 million a year for lead abatement and uses $5 million in federal funding to address properties damaged by Superstorm Sandy.
The governor, however, cautioned lawmakers over recent proposals to require lead testing of the water in all New Jersey schools, saying that full scope of the problem is still unknown.