* Obama could decide to cover up to 100 pct of the costs
* New Jersey Senators asked for more federal money
NEW YORK/WASHINGTON, Oct 31 (Reuters) - New York state on
Wednesday asked the U.S. federal government to pay all the costs
of cleaning up and repairing damage from massive storm Sandy
that tore through the Northeast this week and crippled New York
Governor Andrew Cuomo said he is asking fellow Democrat,
President Barack Obama, to pay 100 percent of the estimated $6
billion bill, at a time that state and local government budgets
remain constrained by a weak economic recovery.
That would be a significant change from last year when the
federal government covered about 75 percent of the $1.2 billion
cost paid by New York to clean up after storm Irene hit the
The two U.S. senators from neighboring New Jersey, the other
state hit hardest by the storm, also asked that the federal
government cover more than the usual share of the cost, given
the size of the disaster and the financially strapped local
"Recent storms in New Jersey have already placed a
significant burden on our state and local governments, which
have been forced to pay for disaster response and will need
federal assistance for recovery from Hurricane Sandy," Senator
Frank Lautenberg and Senator Robert Menendez, both Democrats,
wrote in a letter to Obama.
"While we understand the federal share is typically 75
percent of these total costs, the unprecedented and
extraordinary extent of damage Hurricane Sandy has caused to our
state merits an adjustment to this cost-share to 90 to 100
percent federal coverage," the two senators said.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a Republican, did not
reply to request of comments.
Obama and Christie toured storm-stricken parts of New Jersey
on Wednesday, taking in scenes of flooded roads from the air and
telling residents they were moving quickly to get them help.
'WE CAN'T PRINT MONEY'
New York top finance official, Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli,
said Washington should foot the bill, because of lingering
financial pressures on state and local governments from the
"I think the focus will have to be on Washington, for
obvious reasons," DiNapoli told Reuters in an interview.
"They have greater resources. They can print money; we can't
do that here. And given the fact this is not just a New York
disaster, it's really a national disaster, it's probably for the
federal goverment to step up and play a significant role."
"The problem is the state is limited in its resource
capacity. We just put out the mid-year report a week or two ago
and it really showed tax revenues are down," DiNapoli said.
Most U.S. states must balance their budgets, unlike the
federal government, and it is up to Obama to decide if federal
funds can cover all the costs.
"The president has the discretion to go higher. Seventy-five
percent is a floor not a ceiling," said Matt Mayer, a former
senior official at the Department of Homeland Security.
If Obama accepts covering all the costs, this would be
announced by Federal Emergency management Agency, Mayer said.
Former President George W. Bush allowed 100 percent
reimbursement of costs in some states after Hurricane Katrina
struck in 2005, Mayer, who worked at DHS during Bush's
presidency, told Reuters.
Cuomo said in a letter to Obama that "initial estimates
project up to $6 billion in lost economic revenue in the greater
metropolitan area and the state" due to disruption to business
in the world's financial hub.
Cuomo added that "the significant impact from Hurricane
Sandy plainly warrants providing this assistance."
The state, he said, was still battling multi-building fires,
tunnel closures, and power outages at hospitals and other vital
facilities. Plus there are destroyed homes and people needing
"Moreover, the cost to restore the complex electrically
driven subway and rail transportation systems after total
inundation from saltwater flooding will place a tremendous
financial burden on New York state," Cuomo said in the letter.
In New York alone nearly 2 million homes and businesses are
still without power.
Cuomo said federal support is key to making sure state and
local governments can respond effectively to the disaster.
New York state is rated AA by Standard and Poor's and Aa2 by
Moody's and its outstanding debt is the second highest among
states, after California.