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Local

Illinois Senate OKs $15 minimum wage, moves to House

JB Pritzker shakes hands after taking the oath of office from Judge James Snyder during inauguration ceremonies at the Bank of Springfield Center Monday, Jan. 14, 2019. (Ted Schurter/The State Journal-Register via AP)
JB Pritzker shakes hands after taking the oath of office from Judge James Snyder during inauguration ceremonies at the Bank of Springfield Center Monday, Jan. 14, 2019. (Ted Schurter/The State Journal-Register via AP)

SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois Senate has approved increasing the state’s minimum wage to $15 over six years.

The Democratic-controlled Senate voted 39-18 Thursday on a largely party-line vote. The proposal would increase the $8.25-an-hour minimum wage by $1.75 next year and $1 more on each Jan. 1 until 2025.

Republicans complained the cost to employers will be too high and Illinois will lose jobs. And they say state government will pay a steep price to absorb the cost taxpayer-financed institutions and those funded by Medicaid will have to pay.

“Businesses and non-profit social service organizations agree: an aggressive one-size-fits-all minimum wage for a state as economically diverse as ours will lead to fewer jobs for the poor and unskilled and serve as another incentive to move business out of state. Rather than being a leg up, this proposal will result in increased automation, decreased service and countless layoffs,” said State Sen. Dan McConchie, R-Hawthorn Woods.

“The business and non-profit communities offered to negotiate a workable solution, but that has so far been rejected in favor of politics. If the majority doesn’t want to further bankrupt the state and accelerate the exodus, it should be reconsidered.”

McConchie and Sen. Don DeWitte (33rd District) voted no on the measure while Craig Wilcox (32nd) was listed as not voting.

“The last time Illinois raised its minimum wage was in 2006, and by 2007 Illinois lost 50,000 jobs. When you raise the minimum wage, the first jobs to go are the vital entry-level ones, and the businesses most impacted are our small businesses,” DeWitte said. “The drastic wage increase proposed in this legislation will not only have far-reaching implications on our businesses across the board, but it will also increase costs for state agencies, local school districts, human service providers, hospitals and nursing homes. It’s irresponsible not to take the time to truly look into these impacts.

“In fact, according to the Governor’s own numbers, a $15 minimum wage will increase annual state payroll by $1.1 billion, which doesn’t even include the costs that would be placed on State Universities. Additionally, nursing homes could see as much as $1.5 billion in increased Medicaid reimbursement costs, and our local school districts will have an even harder time making ends meet and will force those costs onto the residents who are already paying oppressive property taxes.

“It’s only appropriate that we come back to the negotiating table. By doing so, we can work to find a solution that is in the best interest of workers and the business, government and non-profit communities.”

Senate Majority Leader Kimberly Lightford says she’s surprised to hear GOP lawmakers say they don’t want to help the working poor get off of public assistance rolls.

Gov. JB Pritzker hailed the state Senate’s approval of an increase in the minimum wage and told reporters Thursday that he’s “now delivering” on his campaign promise for a $15-an-hour minimum.

The pronouncement came an hour after the Senate OK’d 39-18 a six-year phased-in increase. Pritzker told Democrats who control the General Assembly he wants to sign an increase into law before he proposes his first annual budget on Feb. 20.

The House has to vote yet. But sponsoring Rep. Will Guzzardi, a Chicago Democrat, predicted success. Republicans and many business interests oppose the measure. They say the increased costs not only to the private sector but taxpayer-financed institutions will be prohibitive.

Lightford and Guzzardi won approval for a wage hike in 2017. Former GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed it.

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