Obama Calls Battle Over Wisconsin Budget "An Assault On Unions"
The proposed legislation would require public employees to pay more for their pensions and health benefits, roughly the equivalent of a 7 percent pay cut. It would also strip away nearly all of their bargaining rights.
“Some of what I've heard coming out of Wisconsin, where you're just making it harder for public employees to collectively bargain generally seems like more of an assault on unions,” President Obama told WTMJ TV on Wednesday. “And I think it's very important for us to understand that public employees, they're our neighbors, they're our friends.”
Obama said, however, that he agreed with some of the measures, such as employee pay freezes, are "the right thing to do" to combat the state's ballooning budget deficit. Wisconsin currently faces a $137 million budget shortfall, with a projected two-year hole of $3.6 billion.
"We're broke," Walker said.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney on Thursday reiterated President Obama's position. "He doesn't see that as a good thing," Carney said. "The president believes, the secretary of education believes that the best way to deal with this is for people to address these problems by sitting down at the table to collaborate and work out a solution."
House Speaker John Boehner also spoke out on Thursday, crediting Gov. Walker for “courageous action." He also resopnded to President Obama's interview.
“Republicans in Congress – and reform-minded GOP governors like Scott Walker…are daring to speak the truth about the dire fiscal challenges Americans face at all levels of government, and daring to commit themselves to solutions that will liberate our economy and help put our citizens on a path to prosperity,” Boehner said in a statement. “I’m disappointed that instead of providing similar leadership from the White House, the president has chosen to attack leaders such as Gov. Walker, who are listening to the people and confronting problems that have been neglected for years at the expense of jobs and economic growth.”