SPRINGFIELD — Illinois House members could vote as early as Thursday on a bill to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025.
When the vote occurs, it will be on the same legislation that passed out of the Senate last week on a party line vote. It will continue the current practice of a single, uniform minimum wage throughout the state.
The bill was approved along a party-line vote in the House Labor and Commerce Committee and sent to the House floor.
Retailers were pushing lawmakers to establish a variety of wages based on geography. The Illinois Retail Merchants Association wanted a system where the wage would go to $15 in Chicago, $13 for the suburbs surrounding Chicago and $11 in the rest of the state. The differences were supposed to reflect different costs of living in parts of the state and different levels of economic activity in regions of Illinois.
“Can I charge $15 for a cocktail like Chicago? No, I can’t,” said Karen Conn, head of Conn’s Hospitality Group, who testified against the bill during the 2 1/2-hour hearing.
Rep. Will Guzzardi, D-Chicago, said there’s no evidence that increasing the minimum wage hurts jobs or economic activity.
“By now there’s been enough wage increases (that) there’s a great body of research based on the minimum wage, and the conclusions of that body of research are very simple — there’s no compelling evidence that raising the minimum wage is harmful to businesses, and there’s lots of compelling evidence that raising the minimum wage is good for workers,” he said.
However, not all of the studies suggest that conclusion. When the city of Seattle decided to raise its minimum wage, the city government decided to hire the University of Washington to study the effects. The study concluded the city lost jobs and low-wage workers were working fewer hours after the higher wage kicked in.
Studies or not, several Republican representatives on the committee said they heard from local businesses about the hardships the higher minimum wage will create. Other Republicans complained the bill is being rushed through the Legislature before all of the details have been resolved.
Rep. Grant Wehrli, R-Naperville, said the bill’s wording about the tax credit for employers that’s supposed to help them cover the cost of the raise is confusing and could hurt some employers. Guzzardi said the language can be fixed later before the first increase takes effect Jan. 1.
“My God, folks, this is a huge piece of legislation, and we’re going to rush it through for reasons that have nothing to do with (operating government),” said Rep. Keith Wheeler, R-Oswego.
Under the plan, the state’s minimum wage would go from $8.25 to $9.25 on Jan. 1, 2020, and then to $10 on July 1, 2020. It would then go up $1 more each Jan. 1 after that until it reaches $15 in 2025.
The state Republican Party also weighed in Wednesday, contending Gov. JB Pritzker is “misleading” the public by “falsely claiming it’s the product of compromise and Republican input, even though no Republicans support it. Pritzker pledged to listen to Republicans and compromise, but it turns out those were just empty, meaningless words,” GOP spokesman Aaron DeGroot said in a statement.
Pritzker has said the Democrats compromised on the phase-in length with Republicans and also retained a sub-minimum wage for seasonal workers and tax credits for businesses.
Pritzker said he wants to be able to sign the bill into law before he gives his budget speech on Wednesday.