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October 25, 2013

Obama Sets Bar for Budget Negotiations

by Dan Robinson

President Barack Obama says he hopes upcoming budget negotiations between Democrats and Republicans in Congress produce balanced solutions to fiscal problems, while allowing investments needed for economic growth. 

At a technology high school in Brooklyn, New York,  Obama reiterated his insistence that fiscal solutions must not come at the expense of investments in education and other areas of the economy.

He toured PTech (Pathways in Technology Early College High School), which prepares students for careers in applied sciences, and jobs Obama calls crucial to strengthening the middle class.

Obama spoke in front of a group of minority students, and was introduced by Radcliffe Saddler, who was born in Jamaica.

"I am currently enrolled in three college courses, including calculus," said Saddler.

The president spoke about the importance of education, but also about negotiations beginning next week between Democratic and Republican lawmakers over the U.S. budget.

Washington needs "political courage",  Obama said, adding that budget talks should focus on a balanced approach to cutting wasteful spending but avoid weakening economic progress.

"Right now we need to all pull together, we need to grow the economy not shrink it, to create good jobs not eliminate jobs, we have got to finish building a new foundation for shared and lasting prosperity so that everybody who works hard, everybody who studies hard at a school like this one or schools all across the country have a chance to get ahead," said President Obama.

The president chided U.S. lawmakers, suggesting at one point that they should be brought to the high-tech-focused Brooklyn school for a remedial course in budget priorities.

He said budget negotiations should not be an "ideological exercise" but should focus on fair and commonsense solutions and he took aim again at Republicans who forced a 16-day partial government shutdown.

"I do not want to hear the same old stuff about how America can not afford to invest in the things that have always made us strong.  Do not tell me we can afford to shut down the government, which cost our economy billions of dollars, but we can not afford to invest in our education systems.  There is nothing more important than this," said the president.

Obama said he would continue to insist on a budget that was responsible and fiscally prudent," but that closed wasteful tax loopholes while freeing up resources that help the economy grow.

Congressional negotiators have a mid-December target for coming up with a deal between Democratic and Republican budget proposals.

The stage for the budget talks was set by the compromise between Congress and the White House that ended the 16-day partial government shutdown and averted a U.S. debt limit default.

Lawmakers involved in negotiations have stressed they will try to find common ground amid ongoing sharp differences over such issues as revenues and taxes, and spending for large government benefit programs.