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Christie: Without Pension Fix, New Jersey Could Be Headed Toward Bankruptcy

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New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie delivers his budget address on Feb. 26, 2014 in Trenton. (credit: Getty Images)

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie delivers his budget address on Feb. 26, 2014 in Trenton. (credit: Getty Images)

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STIRLING, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP)Gov. Chris Christie returned home to Morris County on Wednesday to participate in a town hall meeting.

After receiving a 40-second ovation to start the event, the embattled Republican governor heard from residents about issues such as a smelly landfill in Roxbury and fracking, WCBS 880’s Levon Putney reported.

Before the question-and-answer portion, Christie sounded the fiscal alarm, a day after he proposed a $34.4 billion budget that includes a required $2.5 billion payment to the public worker pension fund.

The governor said Detroit filed for bankruptcy over an $11 billion hole — $9 1/2 billion of that which was owed to the pension system. New Jersey, Christie said, is $52 billion behind on pension payments.

“Detroit is giving us a preview of what could happen to us,” Christie said.

“Not even Mark Zuckerberg could bail us out of this problem,” the governor added.

Christie is calling for legislative leaders to negotiate a deal to pay off the deficit. If an agreement can’t be reached, he said he would take “extreme measures” — although he did not say what those might be.

“If we don’t get this monkey off our back of pension, health benefits and debt service, we are never going to be able to grow beyond where we are as a state,” Christie said.

Democratic leaders said Tuesday they disagree with Christie’s suggestion that the state needs to make changes to its pension system.

State Senate President Steve Sweeney said, “We’ve done what we need to do with the pension system.” He was referring to major changes made in 2011, when public employees were told to pay more for their benefits and the state agreed to increase its contributions gradually.

Also at the town hall Wednesday, a 10-year-old girl gave Christie a tough question about the state’s plan to take new assessment test from the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers.

“Many children are slow typers. It can take them a long time to write a letter on their keyboard. You remember on a piece of paper better than any of the other media. Research suggests that having a tangible object is better for comprehension,” said the girl, Abigail Shannahan. “The PARCC test is on computers, and this may affect scores for reading comprehension.”

Christie replied, “Did you type this?” to laughter in the room.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie responds to a concern about academic testing from Abigail Shannahan, 10. (Credit: CBS 2)

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie responds to a concern about academic testing from Abigail Shannahan, 10. (Credit: CBS 2)

But Christie also promised Abigail he would give the letter to the state’s education commissioner. The assessment tests begin next school year.

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