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Politics & Government

President Obama Expected to Talk About Economy in Visit to La Crosse

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President Obama will visit La Crosse on Thursday. He’s expected to talk about the economy, and in particular, about his plan to increase salaries for low income workers. He intends to more more salaries workers eligible for overtime pay.

For decades, the country's overtime law has applied to workers with an annual salary of less than $23,660. If they work overtime, their employers must compensate them. The president wants to extend mandatory overtime pay to salaried workers earning up to about $50,000. "What we’ve seen is, increasingly, companies skirting basic overtime laws. Calling somebody a manager when they’re stocking groceries and getting paid, you know, $30,000 a year. Those folks are being cheated,” Obama told the Huffington Post.

While the president believes the change will create fair compensation for workers, Pete Hanson of the Wisconsin Restaurant Association insists many workers would end up losing pay. "You're going to have a lot of employees lose the flexibility of a salaried position and be reclassified to hourly worker,” Hanson says.

The president has the power to enact the change without the approval of Congress, but Republicans would likely challenge the rule in court.

Obama's visit to Wisconsin comes on the heels of a rally Wednesday night in Madison, featuring Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. The president’s appearance also happens as Gov. Walker prepares to announce his likely bid for the White House.

President Obama is scheduled to speak at UW-La Crosse. It will be his first visit to the city since being elected president. One person thrilled he’s making an appearance is Melissa Baldauff of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. She says the timing couldn’t be better.

“It’s always exciting to hear the president is coming to Wisconsin, especially in the wake of such historic decisions for our country, with the Affordable Care Act being upheld and marriage equality being the law of the land. It’s been some really great wins for fairness and progressive values,” Baldauff says.

Baldauff thinks the president chose to visit La Crosse because the city represents an economically vibrant part of the state. The location will also give the president added exposure, according to UW-La Crosse Political Scientist Tim Dale.

“La Crosse serves some strategic purposes. We are essentially like visiting three states at the same time. We are close to the Minnesota and Iowa border that our television markets and the people who would be coming to see him are from three different states. La Crosse, in terms of the size city it is, and the economy we have, represents a pretty good cross section Obama will be wanting to talk about and to, when it comes to his economic plans,” Dale says.

Dale notes that the president’s visit comes as Gov. Walker is about to announce an expected bid for the White House. Yet Charles Franklin does not expect the president to mention names during his speech, including Walker’s or Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s.

Franklin is director of the Marquette Law School Poll. He predicts, that for the most part, the president’s visit will skirt politics.

“There’s always an underlying political purpose to whatever is done, but on the other hand, the president doesn’t seem to be getting himself directly involved in the nomination politics for 2016 yet,” Franklin says.

Franklin does not expect the president to campaign on behalf of Democratic candidates until next year. As for Gov. Walker, a spokeswoman says the governor will be among those greeting President Obama, when he arrives in La Crosse.

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WUWM's Rachel Maidl reports on the rule Pres. Obama wants to change regarding mandatory overtime pay for salaried workers.

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