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Minimum Wage

In this Nov. 9, 2017 photo, Senate Majority Leader Kimberly Lightford, D-Maywood, speaks at a news conference at the state Capitol in Springfield. Lightford is chief sponsor of legislation to increase the state’s minimum wage to $15, a plan endorsed by Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

SPRINGFIELD – Illinois Senate Assistant Majority Leader Kimberly Lightford, a Maywood Democrat, said the chamber is ready to push ahead with a bill to increase the state’s minimum hourly wage from $8.25 to $15 over an undefined period of years.

The only rate structure mentioned at a Senate Labor Committee hearing on Wednesday, Jan. 30, was a $1 increase to the $8.25 rate for each of the next six years, then a 75-cent increase in the seventh year. Lightford said the rate would be phased in by 2025.

Business interests also preferred a regional rollout of the tax increase. In Oregon and New York, high costs of living areas have a minimum wage that is higher than in more rural areas. Lightford said this would be discussed, but she was not sure it would be permissible per the Illinois constitution.

Senator Dave Koehler, a Peoria Democrat, raised the idea of regional tax breaks for employers in lower cost-of-living areas to counteract the $15 minimum wage.

The committee also heard testimony from employers who said a $15 minimum wage would be a “job killer,” and a nursing home advocacy group proposed a measure to increase the state’s reimbursement rate to Medicaid facilities as the wage increases.

The Illinois Association of Park Districts, small business lobbyists and the Illinois Restaurant Association all raised concerns that the hike could mean layoffs for minimum wage workers as well.

While the group agreed to several points of discussion, the clock was ticking for the interest groups to get their preferred language in the bill, as Gov. J.B. Pritzker wants the bill on his desk to sign prior to his budget address scheduled for Feb. 20.

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