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IL: Minimum wage increase hits Thursday

SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois minimum wage will go up to $8.25 per
hour Thursday, ending a multi-year run of increases spearheaded in
part by a politician who’s no longer around to take the credit – or
the criticism.

In 2006, then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich and lawmakers approved raising
the Illinois minimum wage from $6.50 an hour to $7.50. And in that
deal, they provided for regular increases every July until the wage
hit $8.25 this year. The Illinois minimum wage is now $8.

“People working 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year earning minimum
wage bring home just $13,000. That’s just not enough,” Blagojevich
said at the time. “Raising the minimum wage will make it a little
easier for these families to get by.”

As he sits in a federal courtroom on trial for corruption, the
minimum wage increase that will take effect next week is one of the
points of Blagojevich’s legacy that some politicians still might
praise.

Two arguments

In the years since, supporters of the move have touted that some
employees have gotten raises via the higher minimum wage even as
the recession hit.

“Increasing the minimum wage is an effective stimulus that helps
workers who need it the most and supports the economy,” said
Illinois Department of Labor spokeswoman Anjali Julka.

But opponents have criticized the increased costs of higher wages
as yet another obstacle that businesses have faced in tough
economic times.

The two opposite arguments make any proposals to change the minimum
wage a hot political question. So it could be a while before
Illinois leaders think about tackling it again.

Democrats controlled most of state government when the last
increase was approved. Whether anything new happens with the
minimum wage could hinge on who wins the race for governor in
2010.

In comments this week about Wal-Mart potentially building in
Chicago for the first time, Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn trumpeted the
upcoming increase.

Quinn and Brady

“I fought for that,” Quinn said of the coming hike. “It’s going to
be a raise for a lot of hardworking people in our state.”

The issue is one that provides a clear contrast for voters between
Quinn and his Republican gubernatorial challenger, state Sen. Bill
Brady of Bloomington.

Brady said he’d like to see the Illinois minimum wage moved back to
the federal rate of $7.25. He voted against the increase in
2006.

“I disagree with trying to elevate the minimum wage above the
federal level,” Brady said Friday. “The federal level is a
competitive level, competing with neighboring states.”

“For the state of Illinois to come in and micromanage wages above
the federal minimum wage is a mistake,” Brady said.

Brady’s opinion is one that’s he’s shared with business groups that
argue that employers have a hard time keeping up with increased
coasts, as well as neighboring states that pay the lower federal
minimum. Illinois minimum wage as of Thursday will be $1 higher
than all of its neighboring states.

Illinois’ neighbors all use the $7.25 federal minimum wage
rate.

While any changes to the minimum wage could depend on who wins the
governor’s office in November, it also largely could depend on the
state of the economy.

State Rep. Pat Verschoore, D-Milan, said that while he supports a
higher minimum wage, he doesn’t see changes coming.

Verschoore said officials lately are focused less on how much
employees earn, and more on trying to make sure people can be
employed.

“We’ve got to get the unemployment rate down,” he said.

mike.riopell@lee.net / 217-789-086

 

Read the original article from Stateline.org.

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