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Minimum clarity on wage issue

Caught up in his own words, Rauner looks for a way out

Published: Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014 1:15 a.m. CDT

Bruce Rauner and his campaign team may want to do a serious evaluation of their damage-control efforts. It’s hard to see how they could do a worse job of it.

Last week’s fiasco started with a news story about remarks Rauner made in December about the minimum wage. It included this line, “I will advocate moving the Illinois minimum wage back to the national minimum wage.”

That seems clear enough. The Illinois minimum wage is $8.25 an hour. The national rate is $7.25 an hour. Ergo, Rauner wants to cut the Illinois minimum wage by $1 an hour.

Now, any number of Republicans have said the Illinois minimum wage should be the same as the federal one. But when that Republican is a gazillionaire running for governor, it looks like the rich bully trying to stick it to the little people.

Rauner quickly said people had it all wrong. He didn’t really mean to cut the Illinois wage, although his statement would appear to leave little wiggle room. No, he thinks the federal wage ought to be raised to $10 an hour and Illinois should match that. For the record, Gov. Pat Quinn supports a $10 minimum wage, and President Barack Obama supports $10.10.

Not long after Rauner issued his “clarification,” the Chicago Sun-Times found a video of Rauner addressing a Republican group in September. In it, Rauner said he is “adamantly, adamantly” opposed to raising the minimum wage.

He probably didn’t really mean that, either, which is why he is now in favor of raising it.

It certainly wasn’t the smoothest performance by a candidate caught up by his own words, but it does show a certain, um, agility on Rauner’s part.

Issue previously

snared Brady

This isn’t the first time the minimum wage has tripped up a Republican candidate for governor.

Back in 2010, Sen. Bill Brady, R-Bloomington, said the state’s minimum wage should be pared back to the federal level. At the time, the state’s rate had just increased to $8.25.

He fairly quickly amended that to say the federal rate should be allowed to catch up to the state rate and then the two should remain at the same level.

That’s pretty much what Brady is saying now in the latest minimum-wage blow-up. He thinks the federal and state rates should be the same, but he isn’t calling for the state rate to be lowered.

Lawsuit No. 3

Last week, we failed to mention the third lawsuit that’s been filed so far challenging the state’s new pension reform law.

That one was filed by the Illinois State Employees Association Retirees, which is being represented by Springfield attorney Don Craven. This is separate from the Retired State Employees Association, which filed its own lawsuit. The ISEAR lawsuit was filed on the same day as the RSEA lawsuit. Got all of that?

All three lawsuits have at least one thing in common. They all contend that pension reforms violate the state Constitution’s protections against diminishing pension benefits.

The three lawsuits all have some subtle differences. All eight plaintiffs in the first lawsuit that was filed are members of the Teachers Retirement System, but not members of the two big teachers’ unions.

The four named plaintiffs in the RSEA lawsuit are all retired state employees who are members of the State Employees Retirement System.

Then there’s the ISEAR lawsuit. It has five named plaintiffs with at least one from each of the four systems affected by the pension changes. Two are from SERS, one from TRS, one from the State Universities Retirement System and, yes, one from the General Assembly Retirement System. The GARS plaintiff is former Springfield state Rep. Gwenn Klingler.

There are no judges listed as plaintiffs. As retirees know all too well, the judges aren’t included in the changes.

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