In announcing the allocation of an additional $10 million for lead paint abatement in New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie urged restraint in tackling what many have described as a growing crisis.
“I want to caution the Legislature not to overreact to this,” Christie said. “I think a little bit of what we’ve got going on now is shoot first and aim later.”
The Governor announced that $10 million would be administered by the Department of Community Affairs and directed to lead paint remediation for low- and moderate-income residents. The money would be in addition to at least $10 million already spent this year on lead inspections and other lead abatement measures.
“The primary lead concern in New Jersey has been and remains the outdated lead-based paint in our old housing stocks, not water sources,” the governor said during a Statehouse news conference. “That’s the major problem we have regarding lead in New Jersey.”
The governor also dismissed accusations he had raided the Lead Hazard Abatement fund, a $10 million allocation that is theoretically derived from a tax on paint cans. Christie argued there is no way to track how the paint tax is collected and therefore the fund is simply an allocation from the general budget — one which he said he continues to meet.
“The point is there is no lead hazard fund,” Christie said. “It’s a line-item in the budget that’s never funded by the source they said it would be funded by because they can’t identify that source.”
Christie said the Legislature sets a goal of $10 million in funding per year which the state has already met and exceeded.
Asked about three bills in committee debated the day prior to the news conference, Christie said he was willing to discuss options, but added the state must first identify the extent and source of the problem.
“I know that there’s a temptation sometimes in the Legislature that the minute they see a problem they go off into the most extreme and expensive solution to that problem,” he said, adding later, “Let’s be sure that we’re doing this the right way for the right reasons.”
The discussion of lead in New Jersey escalated recently when it was revealed that roughly half of Newark’s public schools had high levels of lead in their drinking water and that 11 communities around the State had children with elevated lead levels in their bloodstream.
Christie said during the news conference April 5 that the situation in Newark was now under control and cautioned against instituting sweeping mandates for school water testing because, he said, the state would have to pay for any mandates it hands down.
“We have a constitutional provision called state mandate, state pay,” he said. “If we set any of the rules, we have to pay.”