Christie’s budget continues depletion of lead abatement fund

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“Gov. Chris Christie’s latest budget proposal honors a decade-old practice in New Jersey: It diverts millions of dollars intended for a lead exposure prevention program to the state’s general fund.

Christie’s Democratic predecessor made similar budget transfers. And administration officials say New Jersey is a success story for addressing lead contamination. But the Republican governor is drawing increasing criticism from lawmakers and community groups who claim he isn’t doing enough to reduce it.

They’ve focused their concern on the lack of money in Christie’s budget for the Lead Hazard Control Assistance Fund.

Created in 2004, the fund was designed to provide financial assistance to property owners who want to remove lead paint, which can peel and crumble, placing children at risk for developmental disabilities.

A tax on paint cans was supposed to pay for the fund, providing at least $7 million a year.

But starting with Gov. Jon Corzine, the state has diverted some or nearly all of that money to the general budget almost every year.

Christie’s proposed spending plan for fiscal year 2017, unveiled last week, allocates $180,000, the same as this year. New Jersey’s Department of Community Affairs said the program effectively ended in 2012…”

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