Christie Pegs New Jersey Sandy Damage at $29.4 Billion

New Jersey suffered at least $29.4 billion in damage from Sandy, the Atlantic superstorm that left 37 people dead and washed out communities as it ravaged shore areas, according to an estimate from Governor Chris Christie.

The figure released yesterday covers property and business losses as well as mass-transit system damage, Christie said in a statement. The Republican said the estimate reflects U.S. aid already received and may be revised higher in coming weeks.

“This preliminary number is based on the best available data, field observations and geographical mapping, and supported by expert advice from my cabinet commissioners and an outside consulting company,” Christie, 50, said in the statement.

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Sandy swept ashore near Atlantic City packing hurricane- force winds and pushing floodwaters over barrier islands and into seaside communities in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Rhode Island. Water levels at New York’s Battery Park crested at almost 13.9 feet (4.2 meters) above normal high tides, more than 3 feet above the previous record set in 1960.

Wind-driven waves tore up boardwalks crucial to New Jersey’s $38 billion-a-year tourism industry, flooded buildings and knocked homes off foundations. Floodwaters also crippled New Jersey Transit, damaging 62 locomotives and 261 rail cars in storage yards as well as control equipment and repair shops.

Bipartisan Approach

“I stand ready to work with our congressional delegation and the Obama administration to get the funding support New Jersey expects and deserves,” Christie said in the statement. “I will spare no effort and waste no time to rebuild and restore our tourism industry, our transportation and utilities infrastructure and the lives of our citizens.”

The governor warned state residents earlier this month that property owners in areas devastated by Sandy may face higher tax bills to pay for repairs. He has said he didn’t have an estimate for how the clean-up efforts may affect property levies.

Christie also has said the storm may have hurt October and November revenue enough to throw into doubt an income-tax cut he spent much of the year promoting, though rebuilding may cause a burst of spending and hiring. New Jersey’s jobless rate, at 9.7 percent last month, hasn’t been below 9 percent since May 2009.

The state collected $1.9 billion in tax revenue last month, up 6.8 percent from October 2011, while Sandy curbed receipts from casinos, the lottery and some other sources, according to Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff. Revenue rose 3.4 percent for the first four months of fiscal 2013 compared with the same period a year earlier, yet receipts still trail budget forecasts by $263.8 million, or about 4.1 percent, he said yesterday.

Lautenberg Support

“The people of New Jersey can rely on the congressional delegation to work with the Obama administration, Governor Christie and our colleagues to deliver the funding necessary for New Jersey families, communities and businesses to recover and rebuild so that we’re stronger than ever before,” U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg, a New Jersey Democrat, said in a statement.

In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo, a 54-year-old Democrat, said last week that Sandy had cost his state about $33 billion. Cuomo said he would seek $30 billion in aid from the federal government to mitigate physical and economic damage.

Recovering from Sandy is giving the U.S. Northeast -- and the rest of the country -- an economic boost that may eventually surpass the loss of business caused by the storm. Reconstruction and related purchases and hiring may range from $140 billion to $240 billion and add 0.5 percentage point to U.S. economic growth next year, assuming $50 billion in losses, according to Economic Outlook Group LLC in Princeton, New Jersey.

Insured Losses

Estimates of insured damage caused by Sandy range from $7 billion to $25 billion. When lost wages and sales are added, the total comes to $50 billion, according to Oakland, California- based catastrophe-risk modeler Equecat Inc. That amount may be recouped next year as recovery efforts spur building and sales.

Sandy may reduce fourth-quarter economic growth by 0.25 percentage point to 0.5 percentage point because of disruptions to production and retail activity, according to economists at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. Most of the rebuilding will occur in next year’s first quarter, raising output as much as 0.5 percentage point, the bank told clients Nov. 21.

The rebound from Sandy isn’t a sure thing, said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics Inc. in West Chester, Pennsylvania. U.S. gross domestic product initially will slump by about $20 billion because “airlines don’t get those flights back and restaurants don’t get those meals back,” he said.

Next year, “we’ll get some of that back as businesses restart,” Zandi said. “Whether reconstruction gets GDP back above where it would have been otherwise depends on the insurance money and government aid and how people use it.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Terrence Dopp in Trenton at tdopp@bloomberg.net; Jennifer Oldham in Denver at joldham1@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Stephen Merelman at smerelman@bloomberg.net

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