New Jersey lawmakers on Monday approved legislation requiring the state to put $10 million into a dormant lead control fund. The move by the Democrat-controlled Assembly and Senate comes after Republican Gov. Chris Christie vetoed identical legislation earlier this year. Christie has cited existing lead-abatement programs that spend millions of dollars each year. He also has said he's not opposed to funding the account but thinks the issue should be addressed in the budget process.
The measure would fund the Lead Hazard Control Assistance Fund. Democrats want to replenish funding for the program, which began in 2004 and was funded by a tax on paint cans.
Among other things, it provided financial assistance to property owners who wanted to safely remove lead paint.
"Over the past few months we have been reminded of how damaging exposure to lead can be for young children,'' Democratic Assemblywoman Annette Quijano said. Despite gains in reducing lead poisoning during the last 20 years, there is renewed debate over lead in New Jersey, in part because of the crisis involving lead-tainted water in Flint, Michigan.
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But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recently set stricter standards, halving the amount of lead in a child's blood that's considered dangerous. That change increased the number of children at risk in New Jersey from more than 800 to more than 5,000 in 2013.