N.J. lawmakers move to restrict use of lead-abatement funds

Legislative committees in the New Jersey Senate and Assembly have advanced a measure that would allocate $10 million for a program to remove lead-based paint hazards from older homes.

That would help ensure the homes that children are safe in their homes, said Assemblywoman Grace Spencer.

“Clearly, in the state of New Jersey, abating the lead problem that exists is something that we have fallen woefully short on, and appropriating this amount of money to help address that situation is something we should take an affirmative step to do,” said Spencer, D-Essex.

For more than a decade, money intended for the Lead Hazard Control Assistance Fund has been eliminated from the state budget and used for other purposes.

Sen. Ron Rice, however, said there’s no guarantee that wouldn’t happen again if the measure advanced by legislative committees is enacted.

“We may have to look at constitutional amendments to say that once the legislature intends for this money to go to a particular place it has to go there,” said Rice, D-Essex. “And if not, from my perspective, if we don’t do that, then the administration who make a decision not to do it should be help criminally liable because I really think we’re defrauding the taxpayers.”

Gov. Chris Christie previously vetoed a measure that would have dedicated money for the lead-prevention efforts. Rice said Monday that he hopes the governor will reconsider and sign it this time.

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