SPRINGFIELD — On a party line vote, the Illinois Senate approved raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025.
The bill, approved 39-18, now goes to the House where House Speaker Michael Madigan has indicated his support for it.
Senate Bill 1 calls for raising the wage gradually to $15 n hour from the current $8.25 an hour. The bill provides tax credits to small employers to help them cover their increased costs. It also allows for a lower wage to be paid to teens and to service workers who augment their income with tips.
Casting it as a moral issue — those working full time at the minimum wage earn so little they're below the poverty level — state Sen. Dave Koehler, D-Peoria, said an increase was necessary.
"It's not a matter of whether we need a minimum wage increase or not. We do. It's a matter of how we can most fairly put this in place," he said. Koehler also suggested that there's more work to be done on the measure, including ongoing discussions over whether or not to set wages different for separate regions of the state, noting that cost of living in Peoria and elsewhere downstate is different from in Chicago and the suburbs.
Sen. Kimberly Lightford, D-Maywood, sponsor of the bill, said it is possible the House could continue negotiations on the bill and that changes could be made to it. A possibility, she said, might be to set a different minimum wage for different parts of the state. Business groups pushed for that idea because the cost of living is lower downstate than in the city of Chicago.
After the vote, representatives of manufacturing and retailers urged lawmakers to consider compromises.
Jeff Griffin, president and CEO of the Peoria Area Chamber of Commerce, called the proposed increase "a disaster.
"We're not saying that there shouldn't be movement up from $8.25 (the present minimum wage in the state) but we're calling for more time, more moderate increases," he said.
Griffin said Illinois might do well to emulate New York which has adopted a tiered concept. "I can see three salary levels; one for Chicago, one for the collar counties and one for downstate," he said.
Lightford has spoken against the idea of different wages for different parts of the state as a matter of fairness to low wage workers, though Koehler said that he asked her to commit during debate to further discussion of that process.
Republicans opposed the bill saying it will cause financial hardships for businesses and also for government entities. Many universities hire student workers at the minimum wage and will have to pay those workers more money from their already depleted budgets or cut jobs, critics said.
Human services providers also said they will need more money from the state to cover the cost of the higher minimum wage on their operations. Koehler said that issue could be cleared up later in the state budgeting process.
Shortly before the Senate vote, Gov. JB Pritzker met privately with the Senate Democrats to shore up support for the bill. He wants to have the bill signed into law before his budget speech Feb. 20.
Speaking after the vote, Pritzker signaled he also does not support the idea of different minimum wages for different parts of the state.
“Workers in East St. Louis and Peoria, doing the same job, deserve to be paid the same wage as workers in Chicago,” he said. “A six-year period will allow businesses time to plan and adapt to this legislation.”
Pritzker also said his administration plans to propose a balanced budget that will reflect the higher wage and adequately fund the state agencies and universities that will be affected by having higher-paid minimum wage workers.
If signed into law as-is, Illinois’ minimum wage would go up to $9.25 an hour on Jan. 1 and then to $10 an hour on July 1, 2020. The wage would increase another $1 every Jan. 1 until it hits $15 an hour in 2025.