From the Star Ledger:
New Jersey will experience a post-Sandy building boom, but it won’t help the overall state economy if the Shore doesn’t do well, an economist told a state legislative committee Thursday.
Hurricane Sandy caused at least $8.25 billion in damages to homes in New Jersey, creating job opportunities for the construction industry and related businesses, economist Jeff Otteau told the Assembly Commerce and Economic Development Committee.
“That will create jobs. That will put people to work,” he said during his mostly gloomy testimony.
That damage estimate, from insurance companies, does not take into account homes that were not insured, Otteau said, noting more than half the damaged homes in the state were insured.
The Jersey Shore’s economy makes up 6 percent of the overall state economy, “a big deal,” Otteau told the committee. If the Shore’s economy shrinks more than 14 percent, there would almost certainly be a decline in the state economy, a scenario that most likely will come to fruition because recovery will take years, Otteau said.
“My hope is that your committee will find ways to accelerate the recovery process,” he said.
AJ Sabath, a spokesman for the New Jersey Building and Construction Trades Council, said a boom would help the building trades, which was in the throes of a 30 percent to 50 percent unemployment rate before Sandy hit.
Dave Fisher, treasurer of the New Jersey Builders Association, said the state should come up with ways to reduce regulatory burdens and costs, streamline the permitting and inspection processes and regionalize the disaster planning and permitting processes. He also urged committee members to consider supporting a sales tax holiday for building materials and supplies or at least reduce the sales tax on those items.
Committee Chairman Albert Coutinho (D-Essex) said he couldn’t promise any immediate solutions to her problems or the challenges to other business owners but said the committee is gathering information to help towns and businesses the get the assistance they need.
“I get it loud and clear,” he said. “Time is of the essence.”