Metro-East News

House passes minimum wage hike of $15 by 2025; governor expected to sign it

Illinois increases minimum wage to $15 by 2025

State Rep. Will Guzzardi toured the state to learn more about what for workers struggling in low-wage jobs. He talked to many SEIU Healthcare members about the work they love and how they struggle to provide for their families.
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State Rep. Will Guzzardi toured the state to learn more about what for workers struggling in low-wage jobs. He talked to many SEIU Healthcare members about the work they love and how they struggle to provide for their families.

A pay increase for minimum wage workers is a little closer to becoming state law.

The state House on Thursday approved a minimum wage increase to $15 an hour by 2025, allowing the legislature to send the measure to Gov. J.B. Pritzker who is expected to sign it.

The vote in the Democratically controlled House was 69 to 47.

“Today is resounding victory for the 1.4 million Illinoisans who will soon get a hard-earned and well-deserved raise,” said Gov. J.B. Pritzker. “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. Whether you’re a home healthcare provider in McLeansboro or a janitor in Rockford, hardworking men and women across Illinois deserve a raise and will get one. After campaigning on a promise to put Springfield back on the side of working families, I will proudly sign this historic legislation in the days to come.”

Democrats said the six-year rollout in the proposal was a product of compromise, starting with an increase from $8.25 to $9.25 on Jan. 1, 2020, before increasing to $10 on July 1, 2020 and $11 on Jan. 1 2021. After that, it would increase by $1 every January until it hits $15 in 2025.

The bill includes a training wage provision to allows employers to pay $2 less than the $15 minimum to teen workers with less than 600 hours worked at a business within one year.

“(Senate Bill 1) will lift up Illinois working families. In the focus on social justice, equity, and opportunity, this will expand opportunities for increased investment in children and families,” State Rep. LaToya Greenwood, D-East St. Louis said Wednesday on Facebook shortly before the House Labor and Commerce Committee held a hearing on Wednesday to discuss the legislation.

Among the other concerns brought up was there would be the same increased minimum wage for people in Chicago, where the cost of living is higher, as there would be for people in downstate communities and that the legislation would lead to higher costs for municipalities, for businesses and force them to raise prices, lay-off workers, close their doors or move out of state.

During debate of the legislation over the last few weeks, Republicans have complained at how quickly the legislation has moved, which Pritzker has wanted to sign ahead of his budget address next week.

“This vote today represents everything that is wrong with Illinois government,” said state Rep. Blaine Wilhour, R-Beecher City. “This is a major piece of legislation that will have far-reaching effects on Illinois residents, and yet this major piece of legislation was rushed through the legislative process and no concessions or compromises were given even though they were most certainly sought.”

Despite concerns from Republicans of a rushed process to approve the bill, state Rep. Will Guzzardi, D-Chicago, said the bill was years in the making and would “earn good faith” with minimum wage workers.

“We have discussed this exact bill for two years,” Guzzardi said. “By acting, by showing the folks of Illinois – who elected this legislature and this governor based on promises of doing things like this – to show these folks that we heard them and that we are taking action to make their lives a little bit better, that’s why we are moving fast.”

There is a tax credit for small businesses as part of the legislation. It would start at 25 percent of the difference between the current minimum wage and an employee’s wage in the final quarter of the previous calendar year. It would decrease by 4 percent each year until it hits 5 percent in the final two years.

During Thursday’s House debate, state Rep. Charlie Meier, R-Okawville said the increase in minimum wage would hurt small rural communities in southern Illinois. He added the legislation bill will hurt agriculture in Illinois and saying small family farms would suffer the worst.

He said farmers’ prices for goods are not determined by farm inputs, he added farm net income has dropped for five years straight.

Meier even commented on the tax credits that are included in the bill for small businesses to help them adjust to the higher wage.

“Tax breaks only help if there is income — not when there is zero profit made,” Meier said.

He added family farms are often the high school and college students’ first jobs, and farm jobs help keep small towns alive.

Meier said towns are also losing locally owned grocery stores.

“As more of these small town stores close due to the increased costs associated minimum wage increases, our residents will have to make a 50 to 60 mile round trip to get to a grocery store,” Meier said.

The Illinois Manufacturers Association said it was disappointed with the vote.

“This is an unfortunate outcome for Illinois manufactures and businesses, many of which will now be forced to make some tough decisions that could impact the lives of their employees and the ability to keep their lights on. The IMA and the business community offered real alternatives to help mitigate the negative impact of increasing the minimum wage by 82 percent, but lawmakers ignored our suggestions and concerns,” said Mark Denzler, president and CEO of the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association. “Moving forward, there must be room for serious compromise on issues directly impacting employers to prevent Illinois from losing more businesses and residents to our neighboring states.”

How metro-east legislators voted

State Rep. Jay Hoffman, D-Swansea: Yes

State Rep. LaToya Greenwood, D-East St. Louis: Yes

State Rep. Katie Stuart, D-Edwardsville: Yes

State Rep. Charlie Meier, R-Okawville: No

State Rep. Jerry Costello, D-Smithton: No

State Rep. Monica Bristow, D-Godfrey: No

State Rep. Blaine Wilhour, R-Beecher City: No

Capitol News Illinois contributed to this report.

Joseph Bustos is the state affairs and politics reporter for the Belleville News-Democrat, where he strives to hold elected officials accountable and provide context to decisions they make. He has won multiple awards from the Illinois Press Association for coverage of sales tax referenda.