Updated at: 11/28/2012 6:05 PM
By ANGELA DELLI SANTI
(AP) TRENTON, N.J. - Gov. Chris Christie on Wednesday raised the estimate of New Jersey’s costs of recovering and rebuilding from Superstorm Sandy to nearly $37 billion and said the state would seek federal aid to cover most of the expenses.
Christie announced the revised total Wednesday to include $7.4 billion to cover mitigation, protection and prevention of future disasters. A preliminary total of $29.4 billion announced last week covers repairs and response. The total amount is greater than the state’s entire yearly budget.
"My commitment to the people of New Jersey is to make steady progress in our recovery, and to know that three or six or 12 months from now I’ll demand the same level of effort, attention and results from government as I have in the past 30 days," Christie said at a Statehouse news conference.
The Republican governor had announced Monday that he would seek re-election next year. He said he was motivated, in part, by a desire to continue to lead the state through the rebuilding phase after the hurricane.
Christie named a former U.S. attorney’s office colleague, Marc Ferzan, to spearhead the state’s recovery and rebuilding efforts. Ferzan, who is leaving the private sector to rejoin government, will be paid a Cabinet-level salary of $141,000. The administration also hired Witt Associates, the disaster management company founded by former Federal Emergency Management Agency director James Lee Witt.
Christie said more than 30,000 homes and businesses were destroyed or sustained structural damage during Sandy and that 42,000 buildings sustained lesser damage from the Oct. 30 storm. He said FEMA has distributed more than $500 million in aid so far; 230,000 New Jerseyans have registered for federal assistance.
In a broad breakdown of repair and response costs released late Wednesday, the governor’s office placed $8.3 billion of those costs under the category of business, $5.5 billion under parks and environment, $4.9 billion under housing and over $3 billion under water, waste and sewer.
Earlier this week, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo asked for $42 billion in federal aid _ $32 billion for repairs and restoration and more than $9 billion to head off future disasters, including steps to protect the power grid and cellphone network.
Christie said it’s now up to New Jersey’s congressional delegation _ made up of an equal number of Republicans and Democrats _ to fight for the aid.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg met with congressional leaders in Washington on Wednesday to press the need for massive federal aid, finding a Congress reluctant to move quickly as it wrestles with the nation’s budget crisis.
Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, the top Republican on the Homeland Security Committee that oversees disaster relief, said it would be "a hard sell," given tight budget constraints and conservative opposition to more government spending.
Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said he expected a hard fight.
"We have a Congress that is decidedly less friendly to disaster aid than any in 100 years. We’re in very strenuous negotiations over the fiscal cliff. We know money is short in Washington, just as it is in New York," he said.
Christie has said he expects the federal government to compensate New Jersey and New York the same as it provided aid to Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas after Hurricane Katrina.
Christie also said he and Cuomo have agreed not to compete with one another for federal funds.
"We’re not going to allow any political forces in Washington, D.C., to divide and conquer us," Christie said. "We’re going to go down there as a team, we’re going to work together and advocate for the numbers we put forward. These are realistic numbers that we need."
Associated Press writer Andrew Miga in Washington contributed to this report.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)