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New Jersey storm-hit areas may see property tax hikes: Christie

(Reuters) - New Jersey's towns badly hit by superstorm Sandy may raise property taxes to finance their rebuilding efforts, Governor Chris Christie said on Wednesday.

A 2 percent state cap on annual increases can be ignored by local governments if there is a natural disaster, he said in an interview with CBS radio.

If towns "need to spend some money to get themselves going," a property tax is possible, Christie said.

Christie has campaigned for months on a "Jersey Comeback," a plan that includes tax cuts to boost the state's shaky economy. Earlier this week, he said he would wait to see what Sandy's impact on local finances would be before deciding whether to press ahead with more tax cut requests, local media reported.

Areas badly ravaged by the storm, which tore through the U.S. Northeast at the end of October, will need repairs in housing, businesses and critical infrastructure systems like transportation.

The federal government and insurers are expected to pay for many recovery costs, but the reimbursement process can be long.

Local governments, whose funds are stressed by immediate damage repair costs, are also losing sales taxes and other revenues.

New Jersey, the seventh-largest state economy, has not yet provided estimates on economic damage by the storm, but Christie said he hoped to have a figure by the end of the week.

Neighboring New York State plans to ask the federal government for $30 billion in disaster aid to help with the recovery for New York City, Long Island and other devastated areas.

In February, Christie proposed a 10 percent across-the-board income-tax cut. The Democrat-led Legislature cut a deal with Christie for a plan to provide property-tax credits on residents' income tax returns for those earning less than $400,000 a year.

But state lawmakers, concerned about lagging revenues, didn't include the proposed cuts in the $31.7 billion budget for fiscal year 2013, which the governor signed in July.

(Reporting by Hilary Russ; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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