By CARL GREEN
Springfield, IL – The Illinois Senate wasted no time in approving a $15-an-hour minimum wage plan for the state’s workers, approving it Feb. 7 on a 39-18 vote.
Governor J.B. Pritzker has indicated he wants a bill to sign before his state budget proposal on Feb. 20. The bill, SB 001, now moves to the House.
The bill calls for a six-year phase-in, reaching $15 in 2025. The schedule is $9.25 on Jan. 1, 2020, from the current $8.25; $10 on July 1, 2020; $11 on Jan. 1, 2021 and another dollar each Jan. 1 through 2025.
The Senate ignored calls from Republicans and employers to create a tiered system in response to the varying cost-of-living levels around the state so that downstate would have a lower minimum wage.
“Workers in East St. Louis and Peoria, doing the same job, deserve to be paid the same wage as workers in Chicago,” Pritzker said in a press conference.
PARTY LINE VOTE
The vote was along party lines. From the Metro-East and southern Illinois, supporters were Democrats Christopher Belt of Cahokia, Rachelle Aud Crowe of Glen Carbon and Andy Manar of Bunker Hill. Republicans opposed included Dale Fowler of Harrisburg, Jason Plummer of Edwardsville and Paul Schimpf of Waterloo.
“I would just like to see an approach that reflects the much lower cost-of-living that we have in Southern Illinois,” Schimpf
told reporters. “Job creators have a choice. They can very easily go to other states they can ship jobs out of Illinois and across the river to Missouri. I think we all agree that we need to see wages go up so people can have a better life. The question is how to do it.”
Teen-agers working less than 650 hours a year would continue to be paid less, but they would get raises, too, from the current minimum of $7.75 an hour to $13 an hour in 2025. Employers of tipped works could still count tips toward the minimum.
The legislation would place Illinois’ wage beyond that of Missouri, where voters last year approved increasing the minimum wage from $8.60 to $12 an hour by 2023.
Crowe noted in a statement that the increase would relieve some pressure on government spending.
“Making Illinois’ minimum wage a living wage will help lift families out of poverty, and it will decrease reliance on state and federal aid,” she said. “The point of a job is for a person to earn enough money to survive and support their family in a decent manner.”
Belt, a co-sponsor of the bill, said it will actually be good for business. “Raising the minimum wage to $15 will help our workers better support our economy,” he said. “We cannot expect workers or individuals who have to pay back student loans to be able to afford the cost-of-living when they only make $8.25.”
The six-year phase-in was described as a compromise between unions that wanted a four-year period and business groups seeking eight years.
The proposal also would preserve the way restaurants and other employers with tipped workers count gratuities toward wages. It adds a tax credit for employers with 50 or fewer full-time employees if 25 percent of the extra starting in 2020 and then would scale back each year before phasing out.
In Chicago, hourly workers will get a jump start on July 1 when their minimum wage, now $12, will increase to $13. Cook County workers’ rate will increase from $11 to $12.
Meanwhile, Crowe was among the legislators announcing a comprehensive review of Illinois’ economic growth strategy.
“Four years of lurching from crisis to crisis have created economic instability across our state,” she said. “It’s a relief to hear that Governor Pritzker is committed to crafting a long-term plan to attract businesses and create new, good-paying jobs.”
The Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity review will use a data-driven approach to identify growth industries and determine the best strategies for the state to spur economic development. Findings are to be delivered to the governor within 90 days.