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Article updated: 1/10/2014 10:00 PM

Minimum-wage controversy might sound familiar

Bruce Rauner

Bruce Rauner

 
Bill Brady

Bill Brady

 
Dan Rutherford

Dan Rutherford

 
Kirk Dillard

Kirk Dillard

 
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Controversy over Republican candidate for governor Bruce Rauner's changing public comments about whether he wants to lower the Illinois minimum wage -- or raise the federal wage -- might sound familiar to those who follow Illinois politics.

It arose in 2010 after a comment by state Sen. Bill Brady, one of Rauner's opponents in this year's primary election race.

On Tuesday, Illinois Radio Network reported Rauner saying he'd move the Illinois minimum wage back to the federal level of $7.25, a dollar lower than Illinois' minimum wage. Later, the Chicago Sun-Times quoted Rauner saying he was "flippant" in those remarks and would support raising the federal minimum wage instead of lowering it in Illinois.

But then, a video from a Democratic super PAC emerged showing Rauner saying in September he'd "adamantly, adamantly" oppose raising the minimum wage.

Critics have included Brady, who says he opposes changing the minimum wage in Illinois.

In June 2010, Brady, the Bloomington Republican who had secured the GOP nomination for governor and was running against Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn, stepped out of a convention hall in Springfield to take questions from reporters.

When asked about an impending 25-cent Illinois minimum wage hike to $8.25 an hour, Brady said he would favor "equaling, adopting the federal minimum wage" of $7.25.

He took heat for the comments and later said he advocated leaving the state minimum wage where it was and waiting for the federal government to catch up. He noted the Democratic-controlled legislature would never lower the minimum wage, anyway.

"I'm not going to elevate it beyond (the current rate)," Brady said then. "We need to rest it there and let the federal wage catch up with us so we level the playing field."

Brady said Friday his comments were misinterpreted in 2010, though Quinn didn't let the issue die and used it in television ads. Brady criticized Rauner's call last month for Illinois to go "back to the national minimum wage" of $7.25.

"That's just not realistic," Brady said.

On the campaign trail again after losing to Quinn in 2010, Brady supports leaving the Illinois minimum wage where it is, at $8.25 per hour. On his website he calls both Rauner and Quinn "out of touch" on the minimum wage. Quinn wants to raise the minimum wage to at least $10 an hour.

Rauner's changing statements have given his opponents a chance to go on the attack while the wealthy Winnetka businessman runs television ads they don't have the money to match.

Like Brady, candidates Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford of Chenoa and state Sen. Kirk Dillard of Hinsdale also want the state minimum wage to remain unchanged.

Three of the four Republicans running for governor have had a chance to weigh in officially. The 2010 increase was the result of legislation approved in 2006, when Dillard, Brady and Rutherford were colleagues in the Illinois Senate.

The law raised Illinois' minimum wage to $7.50 in 2007 and by 25 more cents every summer until it hit $8.25.

Brady and Rutherford voted against the plan. Dillard voted for it.

With about two months left until the March 18 primary, the minimum wage debate that has sprung up this week might show how closely Illinois voters will look to economic issues when picking a candidate.

Illinois has a higher unemployment rate than the national average and voters could look to back politicians at the top of the ticket who fit their views on how to improve their financial lives.

Quinn has jumped into the debate among his potential election opponents by this week comparing all four Republicans to the fictitious nuclear plant owner from "The Simpsons," C. Montgomery Burns.

"These guys have all the compassion of C. Montgomery Burns," Quinn said in campaign email.

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