Christie Meets With Obama as Sandy Aid Package Formed
Christie, a Republican who says the storm will cost his state about $36.9 billion, also met with White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew and Jeffrey Zients, acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, as well as other Obama aides, press secretary Jay Carney said yesterday.
Sandy hit on Oct. 29, killing more than 100 people, flooding New York City subways and ravaging beach towns from New Jersey’s Atlantic City to Bridgeport, Connecticut. Elected officials from the region have been pressing officials in Washington for funding to cover repairs.
“There is a difference of view as to what we need and what we can get,” New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg, a Democrat, told reporters yesterday after meeting with Christie.
Also yesterday, New York City officials said they’re considering how to better prepare for storms, and how to pay for housing those displaced by Sandy. A New Jersey transportation official went to Washington to tell lawmakers about Sandy’s damage to the state’s commuter system.
Efforts to secure aid for the states hit by Sandy may be complicated by the U.S. government’s own fiscal strains. Obama and congressional Republicans are attempting to negotiate a deal to stop more than $600 billion in automatic tax increases and spending cuts from taking effect starting in January. Those talks are focused on steps to shrink the federal budget deficit, which is projected at about $1.1 trillion this year.
Menendez said that while some Republicans may seek spending cuts elsewhere to pay for the aid, he said he anticipated that most of the party’s lawmakers would not.
“We expect our colleagues to be with us,” he told reporters.
Obama may send Congress a request for aid to the states most affected by Sandy by the end of the week, Carney said.
Obama probably will seek as much as $60 billion to help states, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, said this week.
Christie, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy, both Democrats, have been pushing lawmakers for almost $83 billion to rebuild the battered region.
James Weinstein, executive director of New Jersey Transit, told a Senate panel that the second-largest U.S. public transportation system suffered $400 million in Sandy damage and needs twice that amount to prevent harm from future storms. The losses included rail cars, locomotives and equipment.
Meanwhile, in New York, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the most populous U.S. city will review how to better prepare for and recover from storms such as Sandy. The mayor, an independent who is founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP, shunned calls to invest in costly sea walls.
The city is examining whether to shift evacuation zones, update building codes and add levees and jetties to deflect storm surges. Sandy shut down parts of all five of the city’s boroughs, halted mass transit and blacked out neighborhoods.
New York City Comptroller John Liu, a Democrat, said he wants to let public pensions invest millions of dollars to finance or purchase housing for people displaced by Sandy.
Liu said he intends to submit the proposal to board members of the city’s five retirement systems, which held assets valued at $128 billion on Sept. 30. If they accept the plan, the specifics would be announced in the next few weeks, he said. The comptroller serves as custodian and investment adviser to the funds.