Mayor Rahm Emanuel questioned this week Governor-Elect Bruce Rauner's declaration that he'd only support a state-wide minimum wage hike if it were packaged with business-friendly, tax-slashing conditions.
"When you say pro-business, what is that? I don’t even know what that is," the Democratic Chicago boss told reporters Wednesday, saying he would advise Republican Rauner "to understand that people (who) work at the minimum wage, over 50 percent of them are women. Lion's share are heads of the household. And if you want to break the cycle of poverty, no child should grow up in a home whose parent is working and be raised in poverty."
He stated: "It's important for Illinois to be on record for increasing the minimum wage to meet the financial demands that are put on working middle-class families."
It's also very important for Emanuel to be on the record for championing a state increase from $8.25 to $10 per hour, a proposition voters widely supported in a ballot referendum last week. With city elections in February, and his political future on shaky turf, the notoriously brash mayor has adopted a more PR-friendly progressive stance in recent months and is seeking to raise Chicago's wage to $13 within the next four years.
Rauner flipped, flopped and flubbed all over the issue during his winning gubernatorial campaign.
He stirred controversy earlier this year when he copped to having once proposed to wipe out the minimum wage in order to keep Illinois "competitive." Backtracking, he tweaked his view to endorse a raise in the rate but only with concessions for companies.
"We should combine it, this is important, with pro-business policy, so we reduce worker's comp costs, we reduce the tax burden and change the lawsuit abuse with tort reform so that small businesses can afford to pay a higher minimum wage," Rauner said last Friday while making a post-election appearance in Moline.
Emanuel, expressing befuddlement, responded: "I don't know what those are, I don't know what that is. I'm for something specific. I'm for the minimum wage, have been all my life."
The mayor also implored Rauner to make permanent the temporary income tax hike that expires Jan. 1 and will leave the state with a $4 billion revenue hole. He wants that money to go toward funding education.
The two men are close friends, travel partners and fellow millionaires who share a similar pragmatic sensibility and appeal to corporate interests.
In pressuring Rauner to get in touch with his inner bleeding-heart liberal, the mayor gets to play good cop and look like a tough, compassionate, man-of-the-people leader in a town that has increasingly low tolerance for his blunt bedside manner.
Rauner is a friendly foil for Emanuel; the former is likely OK with playing bad cop since it works for his government-busting persona. He's also not running for re-election. Emanuel weakens the campaigns of progressive mayoral candidates 2nd Ward Ald. Bob Fioretti and Cook County Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia every time he waves the flag for the minimum wage and undermines Rauner in the process.