Illinois House members Thursday voted to raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025.
The House voted 69-47-1 to pass Senate Bill 1, a vote that was mostly along party lines. All Republicans and four Democrats voted against the bill. One Democrat voted “present.”
The next step is for Gov. JB Pritzker to sign the bill into law. Pritzker has said he wanted to have the minimum wage increase passed and signed into law before he gives his budget speech, which is scheduled for Wednesday.
Pritzker released a statement Thursday calling passage of the bill a “resounding victory for the 1.4 million Illinoisans who will soon get a hard-earned and well-deserved raise.”
Under the bill, Illinois' $8.25 an hour minimum wage will start climbing to $15 on Jan. 1, when a $1 increase kicks in. Another 75-cents-an-hour hike will start July 1, 2020. Additional $1 increases will take place every Jan. 1 after that until the wage hits $15 an hour on Jan. 1, 2025.
California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and the District of Columbia have adopted laws to increase the base wage to $15 before Illinois reaches the mark in 2025.
But Illinois stands alone in the nation’s midsection, surrounded by states with lower wages. Indiana, Wisconsin and Iowa offer the federal minimum wage of $7.25. Missouri currently offers $8.60, a wage scheduled to increase to $12 by 2023.
Rep. Will Guzzardi, D-Chicago, said the higher minimum wage will help about 1.4 million workers in the state and provide them with additional money that will be spent and further help the economy.
“A raise in the minimum wage does not have a net negative impact,” Guzzardi said of findings from researchers about the minimum wage. “Eight dollars and twenty five cents is a poverty wage in any corner of this state. The basic floor of decency and integrity is $15 an hour.”
That argument didn’t sway Republican lawmakers. Rep. Mike Murphy, R-Springfield, formerly owned Charlie Parker’s Diner in Springfield. He told the story of hiring a man who served 17 years in prison on a drug conviction. The man stayed with Murphy until he sold the business, and he is now a supervisor at a pizza restaurant.
“The job I gave him would not exist,” Murphy said of hiring the man for $15 an hour. “I cannot have a $30,000-a-year busser working for me. Don’t take the opportunities away from the people of Illinois who need this.”
Rep. Charles Meier, R-Okawville, said his southern Illinois district is already experiencing food deserts as longtime stores close, forcing people to drive as far as 50 miles for groceries. He also said the higher minimum wage will hurt the agriculture industry and farmers can’t resort to raising prices to cover the costs.
“We can’t add 10 percent (on prices),” Meier said. “Our farm prices are dictated by what is happening in the world.”
Rep. Teri Bryant, R-Murphysboro, said a survey of universities shows they will need $112 million in additional funding to cover the cost when the raise is fully implemented. Human services organizations that contract with the state to provide state services also said they need more money to cover the increase.
“This bill adds hundreds of millions of dollars in new budgetary pressures we’re going to have to deal with year after year after year,” said Rep. Tom Demmer, R-Dixon. “We cannot afford the kinds of commitments we are making here today.”
Reps. Lamont Robinson and Curtis Tarver, both Chicago Democrats and both businessmen, said they have no problem with the higher minimum wage.
“This is the civil rights issue of our time,” Robinson said.
Tarver bristled at Republican comments that you have to run a business in order to understand the issue.
“You don’t have to own a business to give people a fair shot,” he said.
Employees who make less than $15 now said Thursday the increase will help them in their daily lives.
Riverton resident Sherry Morris, a member of the Service Employees International Union, said getting $15 an hour would be a lifesaver for her and her son, who has special needs.
Morris makes $11.38 an hour as a home health aide at Help at Home in Springfield.
It can be hard for her to know which bills she will be able to pay.
“What bill do I pay this month? Which one do I let go?” she said, noting a raise to $15 would be an extra $4,000 to $5,000 a year for her.
Chicago resident Iashea Cross, a personal assistant with the Department of Rehabilitation Services, makes $13 an hour.
“Fifteen dollars an hour (would) give us all a leg up,” she said at the Capitol. “Some of us won’t have to work two or three jobs just to put food on the table.”
Like Morris, Cross also has a hard time paying bills.
“Sometimes bills don’t get paid,” she said. “I’m behind on my student loans. I struggle every six months to make sure they don’t go in default.”
Contact Doug Finke at firstname.lastname@example.org, (217) 788-1527 or twitter.com/dougfinkesjr.