CHICAGO – Illinois voters will get a chance to voice their opinion on raising the minimum wage under a ballot measure Gov. Pat Quinn signed Sunday.
The measure is non-binding, but Quinn and other Democrats who want to raise the rate say it will give them the support they need to move the idea through the state Legislature. The question for the Nov. 4 ballot asks whether Illinois should boost its minimum wage for people over age 18 from $8.25 to $10 by 2015.
It's been a prominent issue in the 2014 campaign for Quinn, who is seeking a second full term, and for Democrats across the U.S. However, legislative attempts to increase Illinois' rate have failed. Republicans and some Democrats in swing suburban and downstate districts have resisted the push, which they and some business leaders say could kill jobs and make Illinois less competitive with states where the minimum wage is lower. Illinois' rate is $1 higher than the national rate.
But Quinn, who was surrounded by dozens of supporters from area churches, labor unions and other advocacy groups for a signing ceremony in Chicago, said raising the wage will help working people and boost the economy by putting more money in workers' pockets.
"It's important that we build a movement, and that's exactly what we're here today to do," Quinn said. "The best way to help the most people is to help them have a wage that gets them out of poverty where they can support their family."
Quinn's Republican opponent for governor, Bruce Rauner, has said that he'd be willing to raise the rate under certain circumstances after initially saying he'd like to see it match the federal rate. Quinn's campaign – and other Democrats – have seized on Rauner's position change in a race that's expected to be one of the most competitive nationwide, using it to paint the wealthy businessman as out of touch with working people.
The minimum wage ballot question could be among up to seven voter initiatives for the November election, including two other poll-style questions on a millionaire tax and birth control.
Four others aim to change the constitution, such as a Rauner-led effort to impose term limits on lawmakers and another that would change the way Illinois draws its political districts. However, both are the subject of a lawsuit questioning their constitutionality, which Rauner and backers of the redistricting measure have claimed is an attempt to quash ideas that are unpopular with Democrats, who control the Illinois House, Senate and governor's office.
The two other constitution-change measures propose modifications to the rights of voters and crime victims.
Most of the ballot initiatives were championed by Democratic lawmakers, prompting Republicans to call it an attempt to woo voters in a tough election year.
Election officials will certify the November ballot in August.
Gloria Davis, who spoke at the signing ceremony, said she will be working to get the minimum wage question approved. The mother of two grown sons, Davis said she works almost 40 hours a week in a meatpacking company but doesn't make enough money to pay Chicago rent. Instead, she moves between homeless shelters.
"This is vital for someone such as myself," Davis said.