By Rick Pearson
Gov. Pat Quinn signed into law a measure today placing a non-binding advisory referendum on the fall ballot asking voters whether the state's minimum wage should be increased from $8.25 to $10 an hour, a key issue in his bid to win re-election against Republican challenger Bruce Rauner.
The minimum wage proposal was a backup plan after rank-and-file Democrats, despite their majority in the state House and Senate, failed to back Quinn and their legislative leadership to pass a measure to put the increased wage rate into state law. The non-binding referendum is aimed at helping to drive Democratic turnout for the Nov. 4 general election.
To emphasize the point, shortly after signing the measure, Quinn's campaign sent out a fundraising e-mail to supporters, telling them that "when you vote this November, you can send a clear signal to lawmakers in Springfield that we must have an economy that works for everyone."
"Our minimum wage workers are doing hard work. They're putting in long hours. Many of them are parents supporting families. Yet in too many instances, they're still living in poverty," Quinn said in the campaign e-mail. "That's not right. That's not an Illinois value. Sometimes it takes the power of the people to convince lawmakers to do the right thing."
Quinn, like Democrats nationally, including home-state President Barack Obama, have sought to use a minimum-wage hike as a rallying cry for votes in November. But business groups have opposed such a move, saying it creates a disincentive for hiring and, in Illinois, makes the state less competitive with surrounding states.
Rauner, an equity investor making his first bid for public office, stumbled early in his campaign over the issue. Rauner initially said he supported rolling back the state's minimum wage to the $7.25 an hour federal rate. Later, he said he would support an increased federal rate or a higher state rate if several pro-business changes were made.
(c)2014 the Chicago Tribune