New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said the financial toll from Hurricane Sandy has risen 25 percent since last week, to $36.8 billion, as he named a former colleague to oversee recovery efforts.
The estimate, up more than $7 billion from a preliminary figure of $29.4 billion that Christie gave on Nov. 23, reflects costs to rebuild and prevent future damage. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is seeking $41 billion in federal aid for Sandy, which includes $9 billion for mitigation.
“I’ve called this our Katrina, because the damage is like nothing we’ve ever experienced,” Christie, 50, told reporters today in Trenton, referring to the 2005 hurricane that left much of New Orleans underwater. “It’s going to require a great deal of federal assistance.”
New York and New Jersey will cooperate in requesting a combined $78 billion from the federal government, Christie said. The two states are “entwined” and won’t compete for aid, he said. The federal government has spent about $112 billion on Katrina relief, according to Christie.
“We have worked on our supplemental mitigation, protection and prevention numbers,” Christie said in explaining the $7.4 billion jump from last week. “We will be submitting that information today to the White House, to our Congressional delegation and to our partners in New York.”
New Jersey will request funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency as well as from Congress for supplemental appropriations, Christie said. He said his administration is seeking 90 percent reimbursement from FEMA, rather than the 75 percent it typically provides.
The governor hired Marc Ferzan, a former assistant U.S. attorney who has worked in the New Jersey attorney general’s office, to lead the recovery. Ferzan, of Lawrenceville, is a managing director for PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP’s investigative-consulting practice. He will work out of the Statehouse and earn a cabinet-level salary, $141,000.
Christie, a former U.S. attorney for New Jersey, said his administration also retained Witt Associates, a disaster- management consulting firm that has advised Louisiana in its recovery. The Washington-based company’s founder, James Lee Witt, is a former FEMA director.
Sandy struck Oct. 29, flooding New York City’s subway system and leaving more than 2 million residents in the state without power. In New Jersey, it caused massive flooding and left 2.7 million customers in the dark. The storm killed more than 100 people and left thousands homeless.
The tidal surge eroded 100 miles of the state’s coastline and destroyed or damaged more than 30,000 homes, Christie said.
The governor, a first-term Republican, said he doesn’t know yet what Sandy’s impact will be on state tax collections. He said he will order mid-year spending cuts if revenue has a sharp drop because of the storm. Revenue in the first four months of the fiscal year that began July 1 trailed Christie’s budget forecasts by 4.1 percent.
“We’ll work from day to day on it, and see how revenues continue to come in,” Christie said. “This is still very new, so I don’t have an idea yet.”
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