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By James B. Nelson February 22, 2011

RNC Chairman Reince Priebus says Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s budget repair bill asks “everyone to tighten their belts”

Under Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed budget repair bill, there is no question that teachers and many other public employees would pay more for their pensions and health care.

The plan, especially provisions that would curtail collective bargaining rights for public employee unions, has drawn massive protests in Madison.

As the debate was heating up, newly named Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus -- former leader of the Wisconsin GOP -- offered his support for Walker in a Feb. 18, 2011, e-mail statement. He argued sharing the cost in the face of a deficit was the least that state employees could do.

"Gov. Walker is showing he, like so many Republicans across the country, has the courage to have the adult conversations our country wants and deserves," Priebus said. "He is showing that no stone goes unturned as he asks everyone to tighten their belts so we can get our fiscal train back on the tracks."

The debate in Madison has many facets -- and we’ve been tracking statements from all sides.

We rated as True a Walker statement from his January 2011 "state of the state" speech that state workers could pay twice as much for health care and it would still be half the national average. We rated as Pants on Fire Walker’s statement that his plan leaves collective bargaining rights "fully intact."

This item is about a different piece of the debate.

Is Priebus right when he says Walker is asking "everyone to tighten their belts"?

Let’s start with the plan itself, which clearly treats some groups of public employees differently.

For starters, the bill specifically does not apply to police, firefighters and state troopers. Those public safety unions would continue to bargain for benefits under current laws, while other unions would lose the right to bargain on benefits and working conditions.

Critics say those unions are being rewarded for their support of Walker, but this PolitiFact item found the picture is more complicated. The governor says the differing treatment is necessary, to ensure government can function in an emergency.

Priebus’ office didn’t respond to a request to discuss his statement or what he meant when he said "everyone" is being asked to tighten belts.

Some may read it as meaning everyone in the state, not just state employees.

That, too, clearly is not true. The bill does not directly affect pay, benefits or negotiating rights for anyone outside state and local government.

Indeed, Walker has pledged not to raise taxes and has argued the changes are needed precisely so individual taxpayers do not pay more.

It is too soon to say, though, what will happen when the next two-year budget -- for the period starting July 1, 2011 -- is in place. Cuts in aid to schools and local government could push some extra costs onto local taxpayers, if the governing bodies choose to raise taxes and fees to recoup any loss in state aid.

Let’s return to the original statement:

Priebus argued Walker is asking "everyone to tighten their belts." But the proposal clearly exempts some public employee unions from any changes. Walker himself has said the differing treatment is necessary and justifiable.

We rate Priebus’ statement False.

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RNC Chairman Reince Priebus says Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s budget repair bill asks “everyone to tighten their belts”

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