UPDATE 1-New York top financial official proposes 'storm bonds'

Fri Dec 14, 2012 3:34pm EST

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Dec 14 (Reuters) - New York state's top financial official on Friday proposed legislation that would allow the state's local governments to issue "storm bonds" to help finance rebuilding and repair costs after Superstorm Sandy.

"To help local governments limit further economic consequences, we should provide municipalities and school districts with additional financial tools to reduce the fiscal impact of this storm on local taxpayers," Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said in a statement.

The proposed storm bonds would be repaid over five years and would allow local governments greater flexibility to borrow to pay for storm costs, the statement said, noting that local governments are normally restricted from borrowing to pay for non-capital project expenses.

Damages by Sandy, which slammed the densely populated East Coast on Oct. 29, are estimated by officials to total over $82 billion for New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

Democrats in the U.S. Senate are moving to push through the Obama administration's full request for $60.4 billion in emergency aid for Sandy recovery for the region. But a growing number of Republicans are arguing for a smaller initial amount.

"You're going to see local governments having to raise taxes" if Congress does not agree to provide enough federal aid to the region, New York governor Andrew Cuomo said at a press conference on Friday.

DiNapoli's package of legislation would also temporarily ease restrictions on the use of reserve funds to pay for storm-related expenses. It would allow local governments to provide relief from property taxes to owners of properties that lost half or more of their value due to the storm and give local governments more time to repay loans from internal funds.

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