Chicago Sun-Times: Gov. Quinn signs measure to put minimum wage increase on fall ballot

CCH leader Gloria Davis (left) hands Gov. Pat Quinn the pen he used to sign an advisory measure that will ask voters this fall if they think the state’s minimum wage should be increased to $10. (Sun-Times photo)

By Brian Slodysko, Sun-Times reporter

Flanked by activists and elected officials, Gov. Pat Quinn led a chant of “raise that wage” on Sunday before signing an advisory measure that will ask voters this fall if they think the state’s minimum wage should be increased to $10.

“There is no more important economic or social justice issue that we have right now in Illinois — and right now in America — than to raise the minimum wage,” Quinn said of the non-binding advisory referendum, which will be included on the November ballot. “There is a principle as old as the Bible: If you work 40 hours a week, if you’re doing your job, you shouldn’t have to live in poverty.”

Then the Democratic governor’s re-election campaign went on the attack.

In a press release sent out at roughly the same time as the signing ceremony in Pilsen, the Quinn campaign ripped Republican opponent Bruce Rauner, accusing him of opposing a minimum wage increase.

Rauner has flip-flopped on the issue. During the primary campaign, Rauner said he was in favor of cutting the state’s $8.25 hourly minimum, the Chicago Sun-Times reported in January. Then recordings surfaced of Rauner saying he “adamantly, adamantly” opposed raising the minimum wage. After those comments went public, Rauner attempted to clarify that. And he later stated that he supports raising the minimum wage, if it’s increased nationwide or if it’s tied to a package of pro-business reforms in Illinois.

Quinn advocated raising the minimum wage, but the issue failed to get enough support in Springfield. In the end, House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, marshalled through the General Assembly the advisory measure that Quinn signed Sunday. The idea is that if enough voters support the referendum, Democratic lawmakers, who were unsure about backing the increase, would feel more comfortable casting a “yes” vote.

A spokesman for the Rauner campaign declined to comment on the minimum wage issue. But in a release, the Rauner camp attacked Quinn, pointing to several recent stories in the Sun-Times that raised questions about Quinn’s handling of a troubled violence-reduction grant program. The grant program, called the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative, doled out millions in 2010, when Quinn was in a close campaign for governor. Republicans have said the grant program amounted to a “slush fund” that was meant to turn out the Democratic vote.