Bruce Rauner said Saturday he doesn’t think his shifting stand on the state’s minimum wage will harm his Republican campaign for governor, and he took the offensive against Gov. Pat Quinn, saying the incumbent Democrat has been a “massive failure” for the working class.
After a week campaigning Downstate, where he performed a hasty about-face on whether the minimum wage should be raised or lowered, Rauner returned to Chicago on Saturday and went on the attack.
“No, I don’t think it’s going to be a big impact at all,” Rauner said when asked about the issue that’s dogged him over the past week.
Then, he blasted the governor.
“Quinn is failing working families and low-income families in this state,” Rauner said. “He’s been a massive failure. We have brutal unemployment. We have jobs leaving the state. We are de-funding our schools, cutting school funding, and we’re shredding the social-services safety net. All the stuff that Quinn supposedly says he cares about, he is failing.”
Rauner, a private-equity investor from Winnetka, described Illinois as “the worst-run state in America.”
“Quinn is doing a horrible job,” he said after giving a brief pep talk to about 50 campaign aides and volunteers at his downtown Chicago office.
To get a shot at facing Quinn in the general election in November, Rauner first must win the March Republican primary.
He said voters’ response to his campaign has been “phenomenal.”
Still, in his first run for elected office, he has struggled in recent days to reconcile his varied comments on what the state’s minimum hourly wage should be. It started when video surfaced Tuesday of comments Rauner made to a business group last month, speaking in favor of rolling back the state’s minimum of $8.25 an hour by $1, to bring it in line with the minimum wage under federal law.
On Wednesday, though, Rauner said he was being “flippant” in those earlier remarks and that he actually wants to see the minimum wage go up.
The Chicago Sun-Times then reported on another video — from September — in which Rauner said he was “adamantly, adamantly” against increasing the minimum wage.
Quinn campaign spokeswoman Leslie Werheimer said Saturday the videos show Rauner was “caught red-handed callously planning to take more than $2,000 a year out of the pockets of hard-working men and women who are earning minimum wage.”
Regarding Rauner’s attack on the governor, Werheimer said, “Billionaire Bruce Rauner is now trying to change the subject from his cruel proposal to slash the minimum wage by slinging mud at Governor Quinn. It’s not going to work.”
On Saturday, Rauner again said he wants to raise the minimum wage in Illinois, though only if the federal minimum wage is lifted or if the state enacts tort reform, as well as changes to the worker compensation laws and tax structure.
“If we do those things that are pro-business, when we raise the minimum wage in Illinois, which I support, small-business owners can afford to do it, and we won’t cause higher unemployment and have our low-income folks and our unemployed folks suffer like they’re suffering today.”