Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Wednesday urged Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner, his longtime friend, to back off on his campaign plan to phase out a 2011 increase in state income taxes and not to stand in the way of an increase in Illinois’ minimum wage.
Rauner campaigned on a plan to get rid of the income tax hike over four years — without spelling out in detail how state government could withstand the loss of $4 billion in annual revenue.
But Emanuel is hoping to persuade Rauner, a longtime advocate of education reform, to change his mind to avoid penalizing cash-strapped Chicago Public Schools that are finally turning the corner with rising attendance, test scores and graduation rates.
“We need the help of the state financially for our schools so we don’t undermine all of the hard work our parents, our teachers and our principals are doing in achieving educational growth for our students,” Emanuel said.
“The state of Illinois is 50th or 48th [at or near] the bottom in funding education. We’re competing for Mississippi’s and Lousiana’s spot. And I think it’s incumbent upon the state of Illinois that, as we’re now finally making record growth in education and graduation rates, that the state of Illinois step up with its responsibility on education.”
The 5 percent personal tax rate will roll back to 3.75 percent on Jan. 1 unless the Illinois General Assembly renews it.
Rauner softened his stand on the income tax somewhat during the campaign. But at a post-election news conference, he refused to say whether the Jan. 1 deadline should be extended.
On Wednesday, Emanuel said he’s all for the extension — with a caveat.
“It has to be dedicated towards education if you’re gonna do it,” the mayor said.
“I don’t support it to just buy more gravel and fill in a gravel hole. I support it because you’re gonna increase education.”
As for the minimum wage, outgoing Gov. Pat Quinn wants to push through an increase — from $8.25 an hour to $10 an hour — before leaving office.
After stumbling on the issue during the campaign, Rauner supports an increase in the minimum wage, only if it’s tied to cost-saving business reforms, including lower taxes and changes in worker’s comp.
Emanuel is hoping to shed the “Mayor 1%” label and undercut the progressive base of his mayoral challengers by pushing through a Chicago-only increase in the minimum wage to $13 an hour by 2018.
On Wednesday, the mayor was asked about the strings that Rauner has attached to a statewide increase in the minimum wage, even after a statewide referendum showed overwhelming support for the increase.
“When you say pro-business, what is that? I don’t even know what that is,” the mayor said.
“My advice [to Rauner] is to understand that people [who] work at the minimum wage, over 50 percent of `em 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 . . . 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.”
Emanuel and Rauner are longtime friends, education-reform allies and business associates.Their families have vacationed together. Emanuel has also clashed repeatedly with Quinn on a host of issues.
But that didn’t stop Emanuel from endorsing the Democratic incumbent and insisting that it was more than just lip service.