Minimum Wage Illinois

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker gives his opening remarks along with Illinois State Sen. Kimberly Lightford, D-Maywood, left, on Senate Bill 1, a bill sponsored by Lightford to raise the state's minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025, after it passed the Illinois Senate during a press conference in the governor's office at the Illinois state Capitol, Thursday, Feb. 7, in Springfield.

SPRINGFIELD — Setting up the legislation for an immediate floor vote and delivery to a receptive Gov. J.B. Pritzker, an Illinois House committee approved a measure Wednesday that would hike the state's minimum wage to $15 within six years. The plan is being met with strong opposition from business groups. 

The Labor and Commerce Committee voted 19-10 along party lines to advance Rep. Will Guzzardi's plan. It would bump the $8.25-an-hour rate to $9.25 on Jan. 1. After moving to $10 on July 1, 2020, it would increase $1 each Jan. 1 until 2025.

"Anyone in this state who is working for that wage will tell you they're not being compensated fairly," Guzzardi, a Chicago Democrat, testified. "They're being kept in poverty by being paid a wage that is less than the value of the dignity of the work that they put in every day."

The Senate approved the legislation last week. Pritzker, a Democrat, made a $15 minimum a centerpiece of his successful campaign last fall. He has instructed Democrats who control the General Assembly to send him a bill he can sign into law before his Feb. 20 address to unveil his budget proposal.

House Speaker Michael Madigan, a Chicago Democrat, said the bill would be called for a vote today  (Thursday) and he expected the legislation to pass. 

Republicans said the fast-tracked advancement of the measure puts an end to a short-lived era of good feeling between the parties at the Capitol.

“This is a change of attitude since last month,” Republican House Leader Jim Durkin said. “There was all these platitudes and statements that were made about how we were going to work together and solve these problems. That is not the case today. Republicans have been shut out in negotiating in the House, and we have had no voice with the administration.”

Major business interests oppose the pace of the phase-in. They have pushed a tiered approach with lower hourly rates in regions outside Chicago that have lower costs of living. The Illinois Retail Merchants Association has suggested phasing in to a $15 base wage in Chicago, $13 in its suburbs and $11 in the rest of the state.

"Small businesses across the state of Illinois are concerned that our local economies are being perceived as comparable to the bustling Chicago, Illinois," said Karen Conn, whose family owns central Illinois hospitality businesses. "I live here, work here, play here, every single day, and I'm here to tell you that Springfield is nowhere comparable."

Pritzker opposes regionalization. He said last week that it would be unfair for workers doing the same jobs in different cities would be paid different wages. The bill set for a vote today (Thursday) does not include those provisions.

Illinois Municipal League also released a letter this week urging legislators to push back on a one-size-fits-all statewide approach. The organization is pushing for a wage increase that takes into account the "significant economic differences" communities face.

"We ask you, as a legislator representing our cities, towns and villages, to recognize that while $15 per hour may be acceptable for some communities, it has a different and varying impact among regions throughout the state," the letter reads.

The IML also states the increase would have a negative impact of employers and employees because of the differing economic states of the state's region.

"An increase to $15 per hour, even over a long period of time, could have a negative impact on many employers and employees in our communities because the dynamics in major metropolitan areas simply do not exist everywhere and cannot be relied on to blunt this added cost," the group said. 

According to a survey conducted last week by Central Illinois Regional Chamber Legislative Efforts, a collection of 14 local chambers of commerce, more than 91 percent of 424 surveyed reported concern about the impact the wage increase will have on their business.

The top four effects business owners predict the increase will have on their business are a need to raise prices to cover costs (68 percent), reduce hours for employees (63 percent), slow down hiring for new positions and laying off employees (48 percent). Another 14 percent (about 60 businesses) said they would have to consider closing due to the increase.

Some larger employers have already beaten Illinois to the punch at raising employee wages. Amazon set its starting rate for U.S. workers at $15 per hour last year. In a tweet congratulating the Illinois Senate for passing the bill last week, the e-commerce giant noted that after they announced their wage increase the number of new applicants for jobs with the company tripled.

Target raised its starting wage to $12 in 2018 and has indicated it plans to raise it to $15 by 2020. Walmart has raised its starting wage to $11.

The Belleville News-Democrat, State Journal-Register and Capitol News Illinois contributed to this report.

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