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Prtizker signs bill to raise minimum wage to $15 an hour

By Greg Bishop
Illinois News Network

SPRINGFIELD — Illinois will have a $15 minimum wage by 2025 despite objections of some business and Republicans, who said the fast-tracked bill was bad politics.

Democrats, who control both the House and Senate with veto-proof majorities, handed Gov. J.B. Pritzker his first legislative victory with the minimum wage bill before the governor’s budget address on Wednesday. Pritzker signed Senate Bill 1 into law Tuesday at the governor’s mansion alongside supporters, including a Chicago-based restaurant group, and union leaders.

While some business groups have come out in support of the measure, others are concerned. Small, independent business owners like Mike Monseur in Springfield asked how much people will be willing to pay for a pizza.

“I’m scared,” Monseur said earlier this month when speaking against the bill. “I’m scared for me as a business owner. I’m scared for my employees. I’m scared for my state.”

Monseur said had been considering expansion for one of his businesses in Illinois, but is rethinking that now.

Pritzker dismissed critics who said the new law will hurt the state’s business climate

“I understand the concerns of businesses and am very in tune to how it is we create jobs in this state,” Pritzker said.

Supporters of the new law noted this makes Illinois the first state in the Midwest with such a wage hike.

That will be met with joy by neighboring states, Gilster-Mary Lee owner Don Welge said. He said he expects jobs to move out of Illinois. He said there are also other employee costs in Illinois that make doing business here expensive.

“This costs us $600 a year more for an Illinois employee earning the same wage rate as a Missouri employee in the extra costs of workers compensation and unemployment insurance,” Welge said.

Democrats at the statehouse have been unwilling to work at lowering such costs and have now ushered in the increased minimum wage. Other employers have said the higher minimum wage will mean employees that already make more than the minimum wage will insist on higher pay.

Illinois Republican Party chairman Tim Schneider said Pritzker pledged to govern differently and listen to all parties and stakeholders, but “those turned out to meaningless words.” Republicans and some businesses said they were left out of the conversation.

Pritzker denied that.

“In fact, the elongation of the years in which this is being implemented was one of those things,” Pritzker said.

The measure will have six minimum wage increases over five years with the $8.25 an hour wage nearly doubling to $15 by 2025. The first increase will be Jan. 1, 2020, to $9.25 and then to $10 an hour that summer. From there, it will increase a dollar a year until it reaches $15 an hour.

Nearly doubling the minimum wage will destroy entry-level jobs, raise prices for consumers, and bust budgets at every level of government,” Schneider said.

Pritzker promised to balance the state budget to include the expected increased costs for state government. That doesn’t account for school districts, community colleges, park districts, municipalities or other taxing bodies that will also see increased employment costs.

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