Vallas: Rauner minimum wage gaffe like Romney 47-percent moment

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SPRINGFIELD — Gov. Pat Quinn’s allies Thursday pounded Republican Bruce Rauner Thursday for once saying he had advocated eliminating the minimum wage “many times,” a statement Quinn’s running mate compared to Mitt Romney’s fatal, secretly-recorded derision of the working poor.

“This is Rauner’s 47-percent moment, I think,” Quinn running mate Paul Vallas said of Rauner, alluding to the tape of Romney that surfaced in the 2012 presidential race in which he condemned 47-percent of the country as Obama supporters dependent on government benefits.

“There are just moments in a campaign where you can tell a lot about a candidate’s values, and the Rauner interview where he talked about eliminating the minimum wage is one of those moments,” Vallas continued in an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times.

“He’s now been caught red handed. Fundamentally, what it demonstrates is a lack of empathy of what working people, living from paycheck to paycheck, have to go through,” Vallas said.

The Sun-Times reported Thursday that Rauner told a downstate radio station last January that he had previously embraced cutting or eliminating the minimum wage but that he regarded those earlier positions as a “mistake.”

That acknowledgement, however, represents the first time the candidate is known to have gone on record as ever having supported an outright elimination of the minimum wage.

“I have said, on a number of occasions, that we could have a lower minimum wage or no minimum wage as part of increasing Illinois’ competitiveness. I’ve said that many times,” Rauner told WJBC host Scott Laughlin.

“It’s a mistake for me to focus on lowering the minimum wage or eliminating it because there are better ways to increase Illinois’ competitiveness,” Rauner said at the time.

The interview with Bloomington-based WJBC-AM came at a time when Rauner was backpedaling because of fallout from having voiced support at a December candidates’ forum for rolling back Illinois’ $8.25-an-hour minimum wage to the $7.25-and-hour federal rate.

After that disclosure, Rauner told the Sun-Times that remark was “flippant” and that he actually supported raising the state’s minimum wage in tandem with enacting business-friendly reforms or raising the federal minimum wage to create uniformity among all states.

The Sun-Times then reported that Rauner, last September, told a political gathering in Downstate Gibson City that he was “adamantly, adamantly” opposed to raising the minimum wage at all.

On Thursday, asked about Vallas’ “47-percent” comparison, Rauner’s campaign struck back at Quinn’s running matefor a statement he made to reporters in Chicago that the wealthy Winnetka Republican couldn’t relate as governor to the working poor.

“Really? So this is how he’s trying to deflect from him saying Bruce is too rich to be governor?” Rauner spokesman Lance Trover said.

Trover reiterated that Rauner considered his past statements on the minimum wage prior to that Jan. 10, 2014 radio interview as “a mistake.”

“If you are going to dredge up old news from nine months ago, seems that a gaffe Vallas made…is also fair game,” Trover continued. “Oh yeah, and he dodged reporters’ questions about whether Quinn should fire all the remaining illegal political hires.”

That is a reference to dozens of left-over employees still working at the Illinois Department of Transportation who were hired by the agency during Quinn and predecessor Rod Blagojevich’s regimes in what state Executive Inspector General Ricardo Meza contended in an August report was an “improper” hiring scheme.

Rauner faced another attack regarding his statement on eliminating the minimum wage from the head of the Illinois Federation of Teachers, a major donor to Quinn’s gubernatorial campaign.

“The more voters learn about the Real Rauner, the less we like,” IFT president Dan Montgomery said in a prepared statement. ”The news that Bruce Rauner favors eliminating the minimum wage is appalling and demonstrates how completely out of touch the billionaire is with working families.”

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