Why Is Gov. Pat Quinn Living Off Minimum Wage For A Week?

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn announced he'll live off minimum wage for the week. This comes ahead of a vote that could raise minimum wage to $10 an hour.

Why Is Gov. Pat Quinn Living Off Minimum Wage For A Week?
Getty Images / Brian Kersey

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn is taking on a challenge of sorts just two months ahead of the midterm elections.

"He's challenging himself to spend no more than $79 on food and other recreational expenses this week."

He's living on Illinois' minimum wage, which is $8.25 an hour, and $79 is the amount he says someone living on minimum wage has left over after expenses such as taxes and housing. This is ahead of a November referendum that would increase the state's minimum wage to $10 per hour.

The governor, who WFLD reports made $177,000 last year, has been supporting an increase in the minimum wage. Other Democrats who also support this cause include Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Vice President Joe Biden ...

... and President Obama.

BARACK OBAMA: "In America today, no one who works full time should have to raise a family in poverty."

But what's Quinn's true motivation? He announced his minimum wage experiment at a campaign event, and the politically skeptical might argue there's something more here than raising awareness. Just two months from now, Gov. Quinn is up for re-election in what's expected to be a tough fight.

The Chicago Sun-Times cited a recent poll that found about 38 percent of voters in Illinois support Quinn for re-election while nearly 51 percent of voters say they support his Republican challenger. Eleven percent of voters remain undecided.

And the headlines have been less than flattering for Quinn. Last year, The New York Times called Quinn one of the most unpopular governors in the country and said he was vulnerable for his re-election bid, while WMAQ described him as the state's "embattled" governor earlier this year.

Raising the minimum wage is a battle Democrats nationwide are waging against their GOP opponents.  

The federal minimum wage hasn't budged since 2009, so it's an issue that resonates with at least some voters.

Gallup's poll late last year found 76 percent would vote for a hike.

Quinn's Republican opponent, Bruce Rauner, says he also supports an increase in the state's minimum wage, but Rauner says it can only be done with "pro-business reforms." (Via WBBM)

The Chicago Tribune was there as Rauner said those reforms would include tort reform, worker's compensation reform and a cut in taxes for businesses. He hasn't specifically said how he'll vote on this November's referendum.

But critics say an increase in the minimum wage could force layoffs from employers that can't support a higher cost of doing business. If Quinn loses this November, it will mark the first time a Democrat has not lived at the governor's mansion in Springfield since 2003.