Republican gubernatorial hopeful Bruce Rauner, who recently called for a reduction in the state's minimum wage, spent yesterday sprinting it back. In a series of interviews, he said his remark was taken out of context, and was misunderstood, and that he'd misspoke.
In December, Rauner, a venture capitalist from Wilmette, told a business group at a candidates' forum in Moline that he'd advocate "moving the Illinois minimum wage back to the national minimum wage" to make Illinois more "competitive" with states that have lower minimums. The Illinois minimum wage is $8.25; the national minimum is $7.25.
That remark somehow slipped under the media radar initially. But it was published Tuesday, and Rauner has been blasted since, by Democrats and Republicans alike.
In his interviews yesterday, Rauner said he favors tying the Illinois minimum to the national minimum, and that he'd even support efforts to raise the national minimum under certain circumstances. As we noted that morning, President Obama and Democrats in Congress are pushing to increase the federal rate to $10.10. Rauner yesterday told NBC Chicago he could see raising the Illinois minimum to $10 "in the context of probusiness reform."
Rick Pearson writes in today's Tribune that in his interview with the Trib yesterday, Rauner "initially sought to make the case that his Moline remarks had been taken 'out of context'" before conceding that he'd been "flippant" and had "oversimplified" the issue.
When you're making $53 million a year—the income Rauner reported in 2012—you can afford to be flippant about the minimum wage.
If Rauner really supports increasing the minimum wage to $10, it could be a step toward reducing income inequality. On his Capitol Fax website Tuesday, Rich Miller computed that at the current Illinois minimum, a person would need to work 52 weeks a year for 3,088 years to earn what Rauner made in 2012. But if the Illinois minimum were raised to $10, by my own calculations, a person would only have to work 2,548 years to earn what Rauner makes a year.