Updated: Quinn campaigns for minimum-wage ballot question
CHAMPAIGN — Gov. Pat Quinn said his breakfast usually is a banana and maybe a bowl of oatmeal at Dunkin Donuts.
On Wednesday morning he had hot water and a bowl of grits at Sam's Cafe in downtown Champaign. His bill was $2. He left a 50-cent tip.
Quinn said he is attempting to live on $79 this week to call attention to the plight of those living on the minimum wage. In addition to campaigning for reelection, the governor is advocating on behalf of an advisory referendum on the Nov. 4 ballot that calls for increasing Illinois' $8.25 an hour minimum wage to $10.
"I have noticed how important it is to put your feet in the shoes of somebody who makes the minimum wage," Quinn said. "It's something that you've got to watch every single penny on and I think it's important that we raise the wage in Illinois for everybody who works so hard. Raising the minimum wage is the fair and decent thing to do."
But state Sen. Chapin Rose, a supporter of Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner, said Illinois "shouldn't aspire to be a minimum wage state.
"When did we philosophically say, 'You know what, we're just going to settle for the minimum wage?' The minimum wage was never meant to be a career wage. It's supposed to be for kids starting out, getting their first job and then training up. Once they get their skill set they get a wage increase.
"Look at the message we're sending here. We're telegraphing that if you can just get that minimum wage job then you'll be set. Really? Is that the message we want to send people?"
Rose said Rauner favors a minimum wage increase in conjunction with business reforms, including changes to workers compensation rules and rates.
"What Rauner says is that we want to aspire to high-wage jobs available to a highly skilled and educated workforce. To get there you have to have serious reforms that are business-friendly," said Rose, who has become a major Rauner backer, appearing with him at several events in recent weeks.
Quinn, meanwhile, denied that his one week on the minimum wage was anything more than a political stunt.
"I think it's important that we realize that many of our neighbors, people who work hard, who serve us and aren't doing this for a day or two, but they do it for 52 weeks a year. The whole concept of our country is we help our neighbor, we believe in fairness, we believe in hard work, we believe in children. And one of the best ways to help families and children is to raise the minimum wage."
Carol Ammons, a Democratic candidate for state representative in the 103rd House District, said she appreciated Quinn's willingness to try to live on the minimum wage, even if it is temporary.
"It gives a person a glimpse of what people experience every day, even if it's not their permanent reality. We don't want people to live on the minimum wage," she said.
Also Wednesday, Quinn criticized Rauner's plan to fund schools and freeze property taxes.
"I believe in giving a property tax refund to homeowners in Illinois," Quinn said. "The best way to do it is to make sure that we properly fund our schools from the state of Illinois. It says so in our Constitution, that we should have the state of Illinois be the primary (source) for funding schools. That's the best way to get property tax relief, not a freeze, relief. Cut property taxes on families and businesses."
But Rose said Quinn's property tax rebate "puts money in your right pocket while taking money from your left pocket," a reference to the governor's support for extending what had been billed as a temporary income tax increase in 2011.
"At the end of the day his deal took more money out of your left pocket than he wants to put in your right pocket," Rose said of Quinn's advocacy for the higher income tax rate and the property tax rebate.
Quinn sat at a long table at Sam's, surrounded by supporters including Ammons and Champaign Mayor Don Gerard.
By chance, former Champaign Mayor Jerry Schweighart, a Republican who is supporting Rauner for governor, was at Sam's when Quinn came into the cafe. Schweighart and the governor shook hands.
Sam's owner Sam Issa said he supports Quinn for governor.
"I'm going to endorse him now. He came to my place and I promised him," Issa said.