Obama praises Minnesota economy, takes aim at GOP during Wisconsin speech

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Minnesota's strong economy has once again been held up as an example for neighboring Wisconsin – but this time it was by President Obama.

Without mentioning him by name, the President appeared critical of several of Wisconsin governor Scott Walker's policies during his speech on "Middle Class Economics" before a packed house at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Thursday.

In contrast, KSTP reports he praised the efforts of Minnesota as an example of how his middle class policies work, with Gov. Mark Dayton having overseen a period of higher taxes on the rich, an increased minimum wage, and boosts to health and education spending.

According to the Roll Call blog, the President said that as a result, Minnesota "has a lower unemployment rate and $9,000 higher median income than its neighbor."

The President is in Wisconsin to gather support for his latest proposal that he says will benefit the middle classes – by increasing the number of salaried workers who qualify for overtime pay under federal law.

But he also used it as a pre-emptive strike on GOP policies and Walker, who it was reported on Thursday is expected to officially enter the Presidential race on July 13.

 (Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

(Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

Among the targets for Obama during his speech were bills passed by Walker, including cuts to education, changes that have diluted the collective bargaining rights of workers, and the "right-to-work" bill removing the need for workers to pay union dues.

The Star Tribune notes that he used the opportunity to laud his own economic policies, such as the higher minimum wage, affordable college, paid sick leave, child care and infrastructure investment.

"America has always done better economically when we’re all in it together, when everybody gets a fair shot," he told the crowd.

Walker bites back

Walker – who shook hands with the President upon his arrival in La Crosse – spent the day defending his record as Governor, saying that Wisconsin's economy has grown since the recession despite environmental and business regulations imposed by the Obama administration, USA Today notes.

He appeared on local radio in LaCrosse and wrote an Op-ed piece for Real Clear Politics in which he said Wisconsin is heading in the right direction.

"To be sure, Wisconsin’s economy has enjoyed a dramatic recovery over the last few years," he wrote. "But our fortunes have improved in spite of – not because of – the president’s big-government policies.

"Reforming our bloated federal government is essential to revitalizing our nation’s economy, and I like to think what we have been doing in Wisconsin could serve as a model."

He notes unemployment has fallen from 8.1 percent in January 2011 to 4.6 percent currently, much of which he said was down to his administration's efforts to cut government red-tape, as well as cutting taxes and reducing costs.

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