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Christie Says Damage Costs From Sandy Outside Tax Cap

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said property owners in areas devastated by Superstorm Sandy may face higher tax bills, as local governments exceed his 2 percent cap on annual increases to cover rebuilding costs.

The state may release a preliminary tally of the damage and revenue effects as soon as Nov. 16, Christie, 50, said today in a Statehouse news briefing. He said municipalities will be able to get federal aid to cover some rebuilding costs, and said the property-tax increase cap he and lawmakers passed in 2010 has a natural-disaster exemption.

“It tells taxpayers in towns that were destroyed that they’re probably going to have higher taxes -- it’s got to be paid for,” Christie said. “Most people in these towns will recognize that if they believe the money is being spent reasonably and responsibly to rebuild their towns, they’ll be happy to do it.”

Christie spent much of the year campaigning for his “Jersey Comeback”, which relied on lower income taxes to stimulate the economy. He told reporters yesterday that Sandy, which walloped shore areas Oct. 29, may have hurt October and November revenue enough to throw a tax cut into doubt, though rebuilding may cause a burst of spending.

Estimating Impact

New Jersey Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff told reporters today that he is still working on impact estimates and that any tax-cut decision will be Christie’s. He said the administration won’t issue any results “until we have all the data.”

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, 54, a Democrat, said Sandy had cost his state $33 billion, and he would seek $30 billion from the federal government for physical and economic damage.

Christie has made controlling the state’s highest-in-the-U.S. tax burden on residents a mainstay of his administration. New Jersey’s homeowners paid an average of $7,759 in real-estate levies last year.

Christie said today it was “silly’” to speculate on how the storm may affect tax growth. He has already pushed back a quarterly deadline to pay property levies and said today that he may work with the Democrat-controlled Legislature to set up a tax-relief program for storm victims.

The governor also said he won’t support a higher gasoline tax to fix the state’s transit system, which was heavily damaged by the storm. He said he has no estimate for how the clean-up efforts may affect property tax bills, and said he still supports his proposed tax-cut until he sees more proof that dealing with Sandy makes it less affordable.

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