Illinois approves raising minimum wage to $15

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Increase will be phased-in over six years

By CARL GREEN
Illinois Correspondent

Springfield, IL – It was kind of predictable. The Illinois Legislature has approved the first increase to the state’s minimum wage since 2010, and the business community acted like the sky was falling.

Democrats in the Legislature ignored the outcry and easily passed the bill gradually until raising the state’s $8.25 minimum wage until it reaches $15 an hour in 2025.

The Senate passed the bill first, on a 39-18 vote on Feb. 7.

No Republicans in either chamber voted for it. Democrats uniformly backed it, with for four exceptions in the House from relatively conservative districts including those of Jerry Costello of Smithton and Monica Bristow of Godfrey.

Metro-East senators Christopher Belt of Cahokia, Rachelle Crowe of Glen Carbon and Andy Manar of Bunker Hill all voted for the bill. Supporters in the House included Jay Hoffman of Swansea, LaToya Greenwood of East St. Louis and Katie Stuart of Edwardsville.

FOR WORKING FAMILIES

Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who campaigned on raising the minimum wage, said it is something the state needs to do for working families.

“Today is a resounding victory for the 1.4 million Illinoisans who will soon get a hard-earned and well-deserved raise,” he said in announcing that he would sign the bill. “After nearly a decade of delay, I applaud the House and Senate for passing a living wage with the fierce urgency this moment requires.

“Phasing in the minimum wage over the next six years will put $6,300 a year into the pockets of nearly a quarter of our state’s workforce and billions of dollars into local economies in every corner of our state.”

IT’S ABOUT JUSTICE

Supporters of the increase described it as a matter of justice at a time when the wealth gap between rich and poor continues to increase.

“People should not go to work 40 hours a week and still not be able to put food on their table,” said Chicago-area Rep. Emanuel Welch. “This bill helps our entire state. The cost of living across the state for working families in Illinois is rising.”

BUSINESS OPPOSITION

The Illinois Retail Merchants Association campaigned hard for a tiered system in which Chicago-area workers would have a $15 minimum wage, followed by $13 for collar counties and $11 in the rest of the state, but the idea got no traction.

Republican opponents maintained the increase will eliminate jobs and cause more people to move out of the state. California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and the District of Columbia all have passed laws to reach a $15 – and they will get there sooner than Illinois.

MO GOP SEEKS TO UNDO VOTER-APPROVED RAISE

Meanwhile in Missouri, Republican lawmakers are seeking to overturn, in whole or in part, the new minimum wage Missouri voters overwhelming approved in November.

Under Proposition B, Missouri’s standard minimum wage went from its previous level of $7.85 cents an hour to $8.60 an hour as of Jan. 1. The minimum wage is scheduled to increase another 85 cents each year until topping out at $12 an hour on Jan. 1, 2023.

Under House Bill 858, which state Rep. Robert Ross (R-Yukon) filed on Feb. 11, Proposition B would be completely repealed. Even the 75-cents-an-hour bump that already took effect last month would be wiped out.

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