SPRINGFIELD — The new Illinois General Assembly will address two proposals on raising Illinois’ minimum wage.
As part of a bipartisan budget package being considered in the Senate, members proposed raising the minimum wage, currently $8.25 an hour, by 50 cents each year until reaching $11 in 2021. Meanwhile, a House bill would raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by October.
In a 2014 advisory referendum, about 63 percent of voters favored raising the minimum wage for adults from $8.25 to $10 by Jan. 1, 2015.
Following the referendum, the Senate approved bills in 2014 and 2015 that would have raised the minimum wage to $11 an hour by 2019. The House has not approved a minimum wage increase.
The new Senate bill is being considered in conjunction with a “grand bargain” on the state budget that also includes tax increases, spending cuts, new casino licenses and other proposals.
State Sen. Kimberly Lightford, D-Maywood, the bill’s sponsor, was unavailable Tuesday for comment, but Democratic and Republican leaders in the Senate have said lawmakers from both parties will support all the pieces of the package.
The sponsor of the House bill, state Rep. Mary Flowers, D-Chicago, said raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour is necessary because some employees must work two jobs to support their families and are in need of programs such as day care and welfare.
“We are expecting them to do more with less,” Flowers said. “We need to provide them with the tools that they need and that is a wage of $15 an hour so they can pay their rent.”
Flowers added that a minimum wage of $11 an hour as proposed by the Senate is not sufficient for people’s basic needs.
Flowers said Illinois’ economy would benefit by reducing spending on programs for low-income people.
Raising the minimum wage would also help bring in more sales tax revenue because people who earn more would spend more, she said.
James Muhammad, a spokesman for the Service Employees International Union Healthcare Illinois, said the union agrees with Flowers that the minimum wage should be raised to $15 an hour.
“Fifteen dollars is just a beginning,” Muhammad said. “But it is a start we feel would be significantly helpful to families who are trying to scratch out an existence in a time where price of basic necessities keep going up but wages stay stagnant.”
Muhammad said the Senate’s proposal to gradually raise the wage to $11 an hour by 2021 would not help low-wage workers.
Any proposal to raise Illinois’ minimum wage will run into opposition from business groups.
Mark Grant, state director of the National Federation of Independent Business, said small businesses cannot afford the wage increases.
They would need to find ways such as cutting jobs or reducing workers’ hours to afford paying a higher wage, Grant said.
He added that increasing the minimum wage could put some people out of business.
“Raising minimum wage pushes up all salaries for all hourly rates,” he said. “If the government decides to do this, they have to find other ways to help (businesses) cope with the increase.”
Illinois’ minimum wage was last raised in July 2010 from $8 to $8.25 as a result of a 2006 law.
Surrounding states such as Indiana, Wisconsin and Iowa have a minimum wage of $7.25, which is also the federal rate.