Illinois State Senate Democrats passed a bill Thursday to increase the minimum wage to $11 by 2019. Republicans opposed the measure, saying it was hasty and its sponsors should have worked with Gov. Bruce Rauner on the matter. The bill now moves to the House.
SPRINGFIELD — To the dismay of their Republican colleagues, state Senate Democrats passed a bill last week to raise the Illinois minimum wage.
The measure by state Sen. Kimberly Lightford, D-Maywood, would raise the minimum hourly rate from its current $8.25 to $9 on July 1 and then add 50 cents per year each year until it hits $11 on July 1, 2019.
It also includes a per-employee small-business tax credit for businesses with as many as 50 employees. The allowable credit varies by employee pay and is capped at a maximum of $1,500 per employee.
The day before, Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner included in his first State of the State address a proposal to increase the minimum wage to $10 over seven years.
State Sen. Kyle McCarter, R-Lebanon, asked Democrats to slow down.
“An abrupt move like this is not fair,” he said. “It’s not fair to the people you say you’re trying to help, nor is it fair to small businesses.”
State Sen. Jim Oberweis, R-Sugar Grove, said, “The problem with this bill is that it’s going to kill jobs for those most in need of those jobs, namely teenagers and particularly minority teenagers. Illinois has gained a reputation for being very anti-business. This bill will help put one more nail in that coffin.”
Lightford said the measure is both needed and supported by voters.
“As long as they’re getting up every day and trying to do the best for their families, we should not keep them heavily reliant on government assistance, and that’s exactly what we’re doing by finding every excuse we can not to pay them fair and livable wages,” she said.
The senator said getting the bill to the House early in the session is only wise. Should the House have concerns, there will be plenty of time for the two chambers to work them out, she said.
Business interests have fought the measure, saying it will price some jobs out of existence.
“It’s fair to say we are disappointed but not surprised,” said Rob Karr, president of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association.
“This proposal would increase their (retailers) largest cost item, in most cases 25 percent over the next three years. And certainly no one’s sales are increasing anywhere near close to that rate to compensate.
“So that’s a real challenge for retailers who are frankly just trying to survive in this state.”
Lightford’s bill allows the city of Chicago, which already has passed its own minimum wage ordinance, to proceed with a $13 per hour minimum wage by 2019. It does not authorize any other city to exceed $11, nor does it allow Chicago to exceed $13.
Mark Fitton is a reporter for the Illinois News Network.