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Obama wades back into Wisconsin budget row

- The Washington Times - Monday, February 28, 2011

Wading back into the battle between Republican governors and public employee unions, President Obama on Monday told governors gathered at the White House that balancing state budgets will require shared sacrifice and that it doesn't do "any good when public employees are denigrated or vilified."

Mr. Obama used the shot, which seemed to be a veiled jab at Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and other state executives trying to curb public union rights, to defend public workers, whom he said have already agreed to sacrifice additional benefits to help close budget shortfalls.

"Everybody should be prepared to give up something in order to solve our budget challenges," Mr. Obama told members of the National Governors Association. "Many public employees in your respective states have already agreed to cuts ... I don't think it does anybody any good when public employees are denigrated or vilified, or their rights are infringed upon."

The comments mark the second time Mr. Obama has publicly weighed in on the controversial showdown in Wisconsin that's pitted Republicans against Democratic state senators allied with teachers, firefighters and other public workers.

In an interview with a local television station earlier this month, he described Mr. Walker's proposal to curtail most collective bargaining rights for state employees as an "assault" on unions. That statement drew criticism from members of the GOP who dismissed it as presidential meddling in state affairs. Separately, the White House has downplayed the role played by Organizing For America, Mr. Obama's grassroots campaign arm, in organizing the massive protests in Madison.

Mr. Walker has argued that his proposal is necessary for local governments struggling to balance their budgets as well as the state, which faces a shortfall of $3.6 billion over the next two years. The newly-elected Republican, who has held firm even as Democratic state senators continue to block the measure by not showing up for work, skipped the NGA meeting to stay in Wisconsin.

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