Obama: Public Employees Should Not Be Vilified

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obama toastingWASHINGTON — President Barack Obama says public employees should not have their rights infringed upon as states look for ways to cut spending.

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Speaking to the nation’s governors, Obama says he understands the fiscal challenges facing cash-strapped states and says everyone should be prepared “to give something up”. But he says that shouldn’t mean public employees are “vilified” during budget debates.

Obama’s comments come as Republican governors in Wisconsin and Ohio back bills that would end collective bargaining agreements for public employees.

The governors are in town for meeting of the National Governors Association.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

President Barack Obama hopes to hear ideas from the states on how to best repair the United States’ slowly recovering economy when he meets Monday with the nation’s governors.

“Our federal system is a laboratory for democracy. In each of your states, you guys are trying all kinds of things. Oftentimes, your best ideas end up percolating up and end up becoming models and templates for the country,” Obama said Sunday night as he welcomed the governors and their spouses to the White House for a black-tie dinner.

At that dinner, Obama urged collaboration between the White House and statehouses, where Republicans made gains and have the highest level of influence in legislatures since before the Great Depression.

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“Our goal has to be to find ways to find common ground to work together. And I am confident we can do that moving forward,” Obama said.

“Know that you’ve got a partner here in the White House. If you look around the room, we come from a lot of different parts of the country and people may have different perspectives. But one thing that we all absolutely share is the belief in the American Dream and the confidence that when our people get opportunities, they’ve got the ingenuity, the stick-to-it-ive-ness and the drive to succeed.”

The governors, in town for weekend National Governors Association meetings, planned to return to the White House on Monday to meet with Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and their wives. On Friday, Obama met privately with the Democrats; Monday’s bipartisan affair will be open to reporters.

Obama acknowledged the governors were on the front-lines and often received the direct criticism.

“The thing about governors is that you’re in charge and people know where to find you, and they expect you to help them in tough times,” he said.

Seeking to appease disgruntled governors, President Obama plans to announce on Monday that he supports amending the 2010 health care law to allow states to opt out of its most burdensome requirements three years earlier than currently permitted.

Senior administration officials said Mr. Obama would reveal to the National Governors Association in a speech on Monday morning that he backs legislation that would enable states to request federal permission to withdraw from the law’s mandates in 2014 rather than in 2017. The earlier date is when many of the act’s central provisions take effect, including requirements that most individuals obtain health insurance and that employers of a certain size offer coverage to workers or pay a penalty.

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