Christie, N.J. legislative leaders vow bipartisan approach to rebuilding

Gov. Chris Christie and New Jersey legislative leaders say they’ll work in a bipartisan way to help the state rebuild from the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy and be better prepared for future storms.

The governor says rebuilding will be difficult because of the emotions and red tape that will be involved. The goal, he said Tuesday, will be to make it as easy as possible.

He cautions against rushing to make changes in laws and regulations.For instance, Christie says the idea of requiring every gas station in New Jersey to be equipped with generators might not be smart from a business perspective.

“A lot of these are small mom and pop operations that work on very thin margins, and you could put them out of business with that cost,” he said. “One step back might be to make them generator-accessible.”

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Senate President Steve Sweeney says lawmakers will hold a series of hearings around the state to get input from zoning, planning, and emergency-management experts on how to better protect the state.

“We want to hear from the professionals, zoning, planning. Where do you build? Where don’t you build?” said Sweeney, D-Gloucester. “Utilities. What should be we doing? Should be we burying utilities? Realize, if we buy utilities, we’re bearing the cost. Do you do that over a period of 10 years?”

Christie also addressed the costs of those towns hit hardest by the storm.

The state-imposed 2 percent cap on property tax increases does not apply to expenses towns incur to recover from Hurricane Sandy, he said.

“Those costs that are directly related to it are not subject to the cap, but what I will tell folks is I’m not going to allow them to use this as an opportunity to shoehorn other stuff in their and we’ll be watching closely and carefully,” he said.

He did acknowledge residents of municipalities that sustained extensive property devastation probably will have higher property taxes

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