Minnesota Democrats are welcoming Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and his likely presidential campaign to Minnesota by pointing out Minnesota’s economy is performing better than Wisconsin’s.
Walker, a Republican, was scheduled to hold several events in Minnesota Thursday.
He met privately with Republican state lawmakers in the morning, spoke to a group of Twin Cities business leaders at lunch and is scheduled to speak to a conservative group, The Freedom Club, tonight.
Former Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, who is the vice chair of the Democratic National Committee, said Walker’s record on the economy has been a failure compared to Minnesota’s economy under DFL Gov. Mark Dayton.
“He’s promised a road to prosperity and the only road to prosperity that’s working in Wisconsin is the bridge that’s being built to Minnesota,” Rybak said.
The two governors offer a stark contrast in political philosophy. Walker’s signature first term issue was removing collective bargaining rights from most public employees. Dayton’s was raising income taxes for the state’s wealthiest residents.
Walker defended his economic record to reporters today. He said the state has made significant gains since he took office, and there are other factors why Minnesota’s economy is doing better than Wisconsin’s.
“Before we came into office for many years, there was a Democrat governor, a Democrat assembly and a Democrat Senate,” Walker said, noting the state’s peak 9.2 percent unemployment rate prior to his election in 2010 and its 4.6 percent rate now. Minnesota’s unemployment rate is 3.7 percent.
“You look at where we were at, where we started and where we’re at today there has been a dramatic change,” Walker told reporters following his closed door meeting with GOP lawmakers.
Dayton declined to criticize Walker during an afternoon press briefing with reporters.
“I’m not engaged in presidential politics at this point. He’s welcome in Minnesota anytime,” Dayton said.
Walker said he won’t announce his bid for the White House until after the Wisconsin Assembly finishes its work in June.
Walker told reporters today that he’s in Minnesota to share information with lawmakers and others about his record. Today’s networking with business leaders will also help with his fundraising should he officially enter the race for the White House.
Minnesota House Majority Leader Joyce Peppin, R-Rogers, said Walker’s speech was warmly received by GOP lawmakers.
“He did an introduction to the caucus of himself,” Peppin said. “Anytime a governor from another state is in town, it’s always nice to visit with them.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.