By Joseph Spector and Jon Campbell, Albany Bureau
ALBANY -- The economic damage from Superstorm Sandy could exceed $18 billion in New York, Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said Friday.
The preliminary estimate of $15 billion to $18 billion in economic loss is based on previous natural disasters, according to DiNapoli's office
"Our daily infrastructure of highways, power, sewer and water -- the elements of modern life that we take for granted -- have all been altered by this storm," DiNapoli said in a statement. "Though the rebuilding effort may offset some of these losses, we must continue to monitor what the long-term economic impact to New York will be."
DiNapoli said tax revenue would be diminished in the short term because of the storm. He said the state was already $436 million below projections before the storm for the 2012-13 fiscal year, which runs through March 31.
He pointed out that local governments and agencies already faced fiscal challenges, such as the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Long Beach on Long Island was already under severe fiscal strain, and it was heavily damaged in the storm.
New York's financial sector accounts for about 14 percent of the state's tax revenue. Also, the storm will hurt New York City's booming tourism industry and create major demands on new infrastructure, DiNapoli said.
DiNapoli said his office would accelerate approval of state contracts and payments to help in the recovery.
"The sooner we get contractors on the ground to assist residents and business owners, the faster New York will be back on its feet," DiNapoli said in his statement.
Meanwhile, the state's debt cap is rapidly approaching as it's faced with growing infrastructure costs.
A recent report from Gov. Andrew Cuomo's budget office projected the state to come within $752 million of the cap in the 2013-14 fiscal year. The debt limit, which was passed in 2004, is tied to 4 percent of the state's personal income.
The budget report was issued in July, well before Sandy hit.
"It's a definite challenge, there's no doubt about it," said Mike Elmendorf, CEO of the state's Associated General Contractors. "Clearly because of what has largely been driven by what's happened with the economy, we have gotten up against that debt limit and it's clearly a problem."