In a stunning reversal, Illinois billionaire and Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner says he supports increasing the state's minimum wage after facing a backlash over a comment that appeared to endorse the exact opposition position on the heated issue.
At a candidates forum last month, Rauner said he "advocate[s] moving the Illinois minimum wage back to the national minimum wage" to keep the state "competitive," the Chicago Sun-Times notes, which would mean reducing Illinois' current minimum wage of $8.25 an hour to the current federal minimum wage of $7.25.
“I never said that," Rauner told the Sun-Times of his apparent support for decreasing the Illinois minimum wage, which surfaced this week in a report from the Illinois Radio Network.
"I made a mistake. I was flippant and I was quick," he added to the Chicago Tribune, attempting to clarify that he supports tying the state minimum wage to the federal minimum wage and seeing the federal wage increase.
In a statement reported by Crain's Chicago Business, Rauner also said he would support raising the Illinois minimum wage, should the federal wage go unchanged, but only "in conjunction with reforms that lower the costs on small businesses so we don't inadvertently hurt the people we are trying to help" such as reforms to the state worker's compensation and unemployment insurance programs.
While Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn has emphasized his support for a $10 minimum wage in Illinois, Rauner's Republican opponents -- Bill Brady, Kirk Dillard and Dan Rutherford -- want to keep the wage at its current rate, but none of them want to decrease it.
Rauner, who reported $53 million in income in 2012, reportedly told NBC Chicago he would support seeing the Illinois minimum wage reach as high as $10 if accompanied with "pro-business" reforms.
The minimum wage comment has been blasted by a wide range of Rauner's political rivals.
Dillard called Rauner's initial remark in support of lowering the minimum wage "political suicide," according to ABC Chicago, while Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis told the Sun-Times she believes Rauner walked back the previous statement because "it made him look really insane."