SPRINGFIELD — Gov. Pat Quinn’s push to raise the minimum wage received mixed reviews from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle Wednesday.

In his annual State of the State speech, the Democrat from Chicago urged lawmakers to raise Illinois’ minimum wage from $8.25 to more than $10.

“Minimum wage earners are doing hard work,” he said. “They’re putting in long hours and in too many in-stances, they are living in poverty. That’s not right. That’s not Illinois values. That’s not a fair shake.”

The push is part of a larger effort by Democrats across more than 30 states, many of them beginning an elec-tion year, to promote the issue of wage inequality.

Democrats in the House, however, are not unified on the increase.

“I hope (it passes). It’s very, very needed,” said state Rep. Sue Scherer, D-Decatur. “Long ago, minimum wage was for kids trying to save money for college, or working in high school. Now there are single moms working minimum-wage jobs, trying to raise a family.”

State Rep. John Bradley, D-Marion, said he’s against it.

“I don’t see that there’s a lot of support in my area for that currently,” Bradley said after the speech.

Lawmakers of both stripes who represent areas bordering states with lower minimum wages also were skepti-cal.

“I live on a border community. Workers on my side of the river are already making substantially more than those in Iowa,” said state Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline. “I would much rather see this be dealt with on a national level so that there aren’t differences between two states.”

Republicans in the House and Senate expressed skepticism that a minimum-wage increase could work in the state.

“I think raising the minimum wage is a nonstarter,” said state Rep. Keith Sommer, R-Morton. “Many of the small businesses end up hiring fewer people.”

Although state Sen. Jason Barickman, R-Bloomington, opposes an increase, he said it’s an election year in a state controlled by Democrats.

“I think the thought that it could come to fruition is very realistic,” Barickman said.

Not all Republicans are opposed to an increase.

State Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka said she thinks the timing is right for a boost.

“I think its the year for it because it hasn’t been raised for a while. People realize a family can’t live on that,” Topinka said. “You’re going to have better employees if you do this.”

Legislation has been introduced in both the House and Senate to raise the minimum wage above $10.

The proposals are House Bill 3718 and Senate Bill 68.

Kurt Erickson contributed to this story.


Load comments