President Obama waded into the ongoing dispute over union rights for government workers today, as he lectured Governors on how best to squeeze additional savings out of state budgets.
In a White House speech to most of the nation’s Governors, the President acknowledged that public employees need to share in the ongoing search for budget cuts at the state level.
“But let me also say this,” as Mr. Obama’s voice hardened, “I don’t think it does anybody any good when public employees are denigrated or vilified or their rights are infringed upon.”
While the President did not mention Wisconsin by name, it was a clear shot across the bow of the Republican Governor in that state, who is locked in a very public battle with union leaders over the future of collective bargaining rights for government workers.
It was one of several jabs that Mr. Obama ran by the Governors, as he touted his own plans to cut spending, and criticized some of the decisions of Republicans on the budget front.
“I know that in some of your states infrastructure projects have garnered controversy, sometimes they’ve gotten caught up in partisan politics,” the President added, as he mentioned opposition to high speed rail efforts.
While Mr. Obama did not mention Florida or other states by name, it seemed to be a clear message to those GOP Governors like Gov. Rick Scott of Florida, who has refused to sign off on over $2 billion in aid for a high speed rail link between Orlando and Tampa.
“We’ve always have had the best infrastructure. The notion that somehow we would give up that leadership at this critical juncture in our history makes no sense,” said Mr. Obama.
The President wrapped up his remarks with an appeal for compromise on efforts to rein in health care costs, especially when it comes to Medicaid, as he urged Governors to come up with bipartisan proposals on that front.
That came soon after Mr. Obama acknowledged that many in the room probably would rather see his health reform law spiked by the courts.
“I am aware that I have not convinced everybody here to be a member of the Affordable Care Act fan club,” the President said with a smile, though it drew few chuckles from his audience.
Maybe the most interesting line in his speech though was about the controversial economic stimulus law, which was opposed and derided by most Republicans.
“It is undeniable that the Recovery Act helped every single state represented in this room manage your budgets, whether you admit it or not.”