By David Madden

NEWARK, N.J. (CBS) — New Jersey is spending a lot more money this year to handle snowstorms than in recent years — even though there hasn’t been all that much snow.

But there is an explanation.

When the forecast calls for snow, crews have to be ready to clear the roads, regardless of how much snow actually falls. And that costs money.

The New Jersey Department of Transportation has spent $47 million so far this winter, compared to $21 million last year.   Both winters were on the mild side, snow-wise, at least so far.

So why the disparity?  New Jersey DOT spokesman Joe Dee says it’s a matter of how many times you put crews on standby, not how often they’re actually used.

“Last year, there were 13 total storm events,” Dee tells KYW Newsradio.  “This year we’re at 30 events.”

Another issue, Dee says, is the increased cost of contractors, who are now being paid about 25 percent more on average than last year.  He says increased demand for services in the private sector are to blame.

Some have suggested the increased spending is politically driven, given that governor Chris Christie is up for reëlection. It’s a suggestion that Dee dismisses out of hand.

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