It’s long been an article of faith among pro-business Republicans in Illinois that the state’s minimum wage is too high. Now, Republican candidate for governor Bruce Rauner has made it explicit: he wants it cut by a buck to $7.25 an hour.
Speaking to Illinois Radio WGBZ, Rauner said he wanted to cut the state’s minimum wage, saying the state’s current level of $8.25 an hour, set in 2010, makes the state unfriendly to business.
“I will advocate moving the Illinois minimum wage back to the national minimum wage. I think we’ve got to be competitive here in Illinois,” Rauner said.
Wealthy private equity specialist Rauner has long railed on the campaign trail against what he sees as a broken political culture in Springfield that contributes to the state’s lack of competitiveness in attracting and retaining business.
His campaign web site says the state “need(s) to lower the cost of doing business in Illinois” and advocates for a “right-to-work” state, limiting lawsuits and changing the worker compensation system.
Rauner’s minimum wage proposal drew a swift rebuke from House Deputy Majority Leader Lou Lang (D-Skokie), who called the candidate “delusional”:
“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,” said Lang. “He’s delusional if he thinks that General Assembly would bow to his class warfare on low-income workers. He needs to have his delusion shaken up.”
Lang, who is also the Executive Vice Chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party, said the “era of robber barons is over”.
“Rauner is deeply out-of-touch with working people,” said Lang. “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.”
Democratic governor Pat Quinn has said he wants to raise Illinois' minimum wage to at least $10 by Christmas of next year, saying it will help boost the economy.
Illinois last raised the minimum wage in 2010. Legislation is pending in Springfield to increase it, including a call for $15 an hour. However Republicans and business groups say raising the minimum wage kills jobs.
The three other Republican candidates for governor—Kirk Dillard, Dan Rutherford and Bill Brady—all oppose raising the state’s minimum wage.