Republican candidate for Illinois governor Bruce Rauner wants to bump down the state's minimum hourly wage from the current $8.25 to $7.25, he recently told downstate Alton radio station WGBZ-AM.
“I will advocate moving the Illinois minimum wage back to the national minimum wage,” Rauner told the radio station. “I think we’ve got to be competitive here in Illinois.”
The other three GOP gubernatorial candidates running in the March 18 primary, Republican state Treasurer Dan Rutherford, State Sen. Bill Brady, (R-Bloomington) and State Sen. Kirk Dillard (R-Hinsdale), are all against a state minimum wage hike, but not one of them has suggested reducing the current wage.
Meanwhile, Gov. Pat Quinn, a Democrat who's seeking re-election, has been pushing to boost Illinois' $8.25 minimum wage to $10.
In a statement, State Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie) chimed in on Rauner's policy proposal, saying, "In my 26 years in the Legislature, I’ve seen many candidates roll out anti-poverty plans, but Bruce Rauner is the only candidate to roll-out a pro-poverty plan.”
“He’s delusional if he thinks that the General Assembly would bow to his class warfare on low-income workers. He needs to have his delusion shaken up,” Lang continued. “Rauner is deeply out-of-touch with working people. He needs to come to grips with the fact that the era of robber barons is over, and impoverishing workers is no longer an economic growth strategy.”
UPDATE 1 (12:15 p.m.): Katelyn Johnson, executive director of Action Now, released the following statement in response to Rauner's comments and his fellow Republicans' stance on the minimum wage:
Making enough income to barely survive and to support one’s family is not a partisan issue, nor should it be.
At a time of rampant economic hardship and income inequality, it is completely irresponsible for any candidate for office to take a callous stance against lifting the minimum wage for low-income families who are struggling--and often failing--to meet their families' basic needs for food, housing, clothing and medical care.
It is especially shocking that a billionaire candidate, like Bruce Rauner, would actually suggest that those minimum wage workers, and their families whom they support, should earn less and be forced to live on $15,000 per year, instead of $17,000.
It is time for state lawmakers, political candidates, civic leaders, and the business community to work on a bipartisan basis to alleviate poverty and to offer constructive ideas on how to strengthen economic opportunity for all working families in our state.
No one who works full-time should have to live in poverty. That’s why giving minimum wage workers the raises that they’ve earned is absolutely essential.
Of those workers making the minimum wage, the majority are working full time, and 84% are 20-years or older. Almost 100,000 Illinoisans work full time and still live in poverty, earning less than $17,916 dollars per year for a family of three.
It is estimated that raising the minimum wage to $10.65 per hour would inject a net of $2.5 billion into our economy and would support our small businesses. That’s why the Raise Illinois coalition is advocating for state lawmakers and civic leaders to support legislation, SB 68 and HB 3718, to raise the minimum wage to $10.65 over the next three years. In addition, over 71% of Illinois voters support raising the minimum wage.
And as s proof of the fair wage movement’s recent success, and its potential, residents near the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SeaTac) voted to raise the minimum wage for hospitality and transportation workers from $9.19 an hour to $15 an hour. In addition, Washington D.C. raised the minimum wage to $11.50 an hour. Next door in Maryland, Prince George County and Montgomery County both dramatically increased the minimum hourly wage to $11.50 by 2017 from the current $7.25.
In 2012 voters in San Francisco, Santa Fe, and Albuquerque, New Mexico all approved wage hikes. Finally, in New Jersey’s state elections in 2013, that also saw Gov. Chris Christie reelected, voters overwhelmingly supported raising the state minimum wage to $8.25 and amended the state Constitution to tie future wage increases to inflation.
That’s why the Raise Illinois coalition is calling for a bipartisan effort across our state to lift wages for low-income workers, and to give struggling families greater opportunity and economic security.
The fight for raising the minimum wage in Illinois should not be considered a partisan issue, but instead a real opportunity to support low-wage workers and their families, to lift thousands of Illinoisans out of poverty, and to boost Illinois’ economy by strengthening our small businesses.
Action Now is working with numerous organizations across the state in a push to increase Illinois' minimum wage.
UPDATE 2 (3:58 p.m.): Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis called Rauner "out of touch" following his call to reduce the state's minimum wage.
“Rauner’s call for a rollback in the state’s minimum wage proves he is the wrong person to lead Illinois,” said Lewis. “Rauner is out-of-touch with working people who struggle to feed and clothe their families, pay utilities, afford medicine and keep a roof over their heads. His proposal is hypocritical considering last year he made more per second than those who would fare under his plan. We not only call for a living wage, but support the Fight for Fifteen, a statewide campaign that would raise the minimum wage to a livable $15.00 per hour.”
Lewis also tweeted this challenge to Rauner: “I challenge Bruce Rauner to live on $7.25 for 90 days, without government assistance, access to his overflowing bank accounts and the financial support of his family and friends. I challenge him to accept a job that pays $7.25 an hour, without the promise of a 40-hour work week, and show us how he can maintain a family of four on those earnings and under the condition of uncertainty.”