State Senate Dems propose raising minimum wage
By Dave McKinney Sun-Times Media February 10, 2011 10:50PM
Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
Senate Democrats proposed raising the state’s minimum wage Thursday in a bid that eventually would boost pay for the working poor to about $10 an hour.
State Sen. Kimberly Lightford (D-Maywood) introduced legislation that would raise Illinois’ $8.25-an-hour minimum wage annually by 50 cents plus the rate of inflation until it reaches its “historic level.”
The legislation defines that level as the equivalent in today’s dollars of what $1.60-an-hour was in 1968 when the inflation-adjusted buying power of the minimum wage peaked. Today, that rate would equal $10.03 per hour.
If the proposal gains traction in the Legislature this spring, it would help offset the impact on low-wage earners of the 67 percent increase in the individual income tax rate that took effect in January.
“I want to make sure that minimum wage workers aren’t ignored and forgotten,” Lightford said in a prepared statement.
But her plan would shift additional costs onto Illinois businesses that just absorbed a 46 percent hike in the corporate income tax and give job-poaching GOP governors from outside Illinois another argument to try to persuade businesses to relocate to their states.
“Such a proposal would be totally out of touch with the economic conditions in the state of Illinois because we already have the highest minimum wage between the Rocky Mountains and Appalachians,” said Doug Whitley, president and chief executive of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce.
“The most important thing Illinois politicians ought to start paying attention to is trying to level the playing field among Illinois and other states. To do anything other than that is to simply invite more poaching,” he said.
Lightford was a main legislative architect behind minimum-wage-increase votes in the General Assembly in 2003 and 2006.
Those moves raised the minimum wage from $5.15 an hour to its current $8.25 an hour.
Only two states — Washington ($8.67 an hour) and Oregon ($8.50 an hour) — have higher minimum wages than Illinois. Illinois’ five neighboring states all have minimum wages that mirror the federal rate of $7.25 an hour.