Rebuilding after Sandy in an age of austerity

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie updates members of the media on damage and recovery efforts related to Hurricane Sandy on October 30, 2012 in Ewing, New Jersey.

After the storm crashed into New Jersey, Governor Chris Christie saw the washed out boardwalk at Seaside Heights and made a promise: "We will rebuild it. There's not a question in my mind we will rebuild it." 

Boardwalks, tunnels, roads -- you name it, Sandy destroyed it. Storm damage is now soaring into the tens of billions of dollars. Scott Pattison, of the National Association of State Budget Officers, says the expense comes at a really bad time, "If we were in a really great boon and had extra cash at the state level, it would be different. But because every dollar counts, any disaster now makes it very difficult on state and local budgets."

The good news? The federal government will probably reimburse states like New Jersey and New York for at least 75 percent. But, then there's the rest of it. Pattison says the solutions aren't great. States could issue debt with municipal bonds, raise taxes or cut public services from the budget.

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