Philadelphia, PA – March 21, 2019 – Governor Tom Wolf toured the John H. Taggart School in Philadelphia today to see progress on removing contaminants which can cause serious health problems. The governor also outlined how Restore Pennsylvania, the most aggressive infrastructure proposal in generations, would help Pennsylvania schools to address lead and other contaminants.
“Our children deserve to learn in healthy and safe classrooms,” said Governor Wolf. “Parents and teachers should not have to worry about the health risks of contaminants, like lead paint and dust in schools.
“The school district is working to make the buildings safe from lead, but we must do more. Restore Pennsylvania is the boldest infrastructure plan in generations. It could provide more funding so we can continue to remove the danger of contaminants in our schools and make our classrooms safe for students and teachers.”
Governor Wolf’s proposed Restore Pennsylvania plan is funded by monetizing a commonsense severance tax. Over the next four years, $4.5 billion would be provided for high-impact projects throughout the commonwealth. The investment would help communities address needs to remove lead paint, protect against flash flooding, combat blight, and expand high-speed internet and green infrastructure. All projects that communities need but lack the necessary funding to complete.
The governor was joined on the tour and at a press conference by Senators Vincent Hughes and Larry Farnese, School District of Philadelphia Superintendent Dr. William R. Hite along with other district and community officials. The tour included a school hallway with flaking lead paint and a classroom with a completed project.
“We won’t stop fighting until our schools are healthy and safe for every student,” said Sen. Hughes. “Philadelphia’s lead problem has been well documented, and it is time we fully take on this major public health crisis and provide the resources that will make a difference. I support and applaud this proposal to clean up our toxic schools, as well as the other high-impact projects Restore Pennsylvania aims to address.”
“The effects of lead exposure can be dangerous, debilitating and deadly – and there is no cure,” said Sen. Larry Farnese. “Philadelphia schools and residences are rife with deteriorating lead pipes and peeling lead-based paint. This problem will only get worse if we don’t take action now.”
Last June, the governor announced a $7.6 million state grant to help fund the school district’s $15.6 million project to address lead paint, mold and asbestos in dozens of schools. Approximately 90 percent of the city’s schools were built before 1978, when the federal government banned the residential use of lead-based paint. Lead from paint, including lead-contaminated dust, is one of the most common causes of lead poisoning.
Lead Paint Remediation
Restore Pennsylvania will fund expanded efforts to remove lead and other contaminants from communities. Studies continue to find elevated lead levels in blood tests of Pennsylvania’s youngest residents, a result of Pennsylvania’s older housing stock, 70 percent of which was built before the 1978 ban on lead paint. Long-term exposure to lead paint can have devastating developmental consequences including lowered-IQ, memory problems, and other neurological and behavioral effects.
Flooding Prevention and Recovery
Restore Pennsylvania will provide funding for flood prevention that will protect against severe weather and save homes and businesses in flood prone areas across the state. Restore Pennsylvania will provide funding to help towns and cities prepare for flooding and severe weather, upgrade flood walls and levees, replace high-hazard dams, and conduct stream restoration and maintenance. Restore Pennsylvania will also establish a disaster relief trust fund to assist individuals who suffer losses that are not compensated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency or other programs.
Restore Pennsylvania will increase resources for addressing blight by providing financial resources at the local level to establish land banks and acquire and demolish blighted buildings in order to create new development opportunities or provide new green space. The funding will be administered by entities established by the legislature as land banks or demolition funds.
Restore Pennsylvania will provide funding to completely bridge the digital divide in every community in Pennsylvania, making Pennsylvania a better place to work, do business, and live. Grants will be available to support installation of infrastructure to bring high speed internet to every corner of the commonwealth. Funding will support every phase of the process from feasibility testing to connection.
View the full Restore Pennsylvania plan here.