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SPRINGFIELD — A plan to raise Illinois’ minimum wage to more than $10 per hour passed a Senate committee Wednesday, despite protests from business owners who said it will harm their ability to stay afloat in a tough economy.

By Jayette Bolinski

SPRINGFIELD — A plan to raise Illinois’ minimum wage to more than $10 per hour passed a Senate committee Wednesday, despite protests from business owners who said it will harm their ability to stay afloat in a tough economy.

Proponents of Senate Bill 1565 say a minimum-wage hike will put more money in workers’ pockets, thus enabling them to spend more money at Illinois businesses.

Illinois’ minimum wage now stands at $8.25. The measure would increase the wage by 50 cents a year until it matches the the inflation-adjusted equivalent of minimum wage in 1968, which was $1.60 per hour. The phased-in hikes would bring Illinois’ minimum wage to $10.55 in 2015, after which yearly cost-of-living increases would occur.

The Senate Executive Committee approved the proposal 9-5. The bill, sponsored by state Sen. Kimberly Lightford, D-Maywood, now goes to the Senate floor for a vote.

If the measure is enacted, Illinois could have the highest minimum wage in the country, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Washington state has the highest minimum wage, at $9.04 per hour.

Illinois last increased its minimum wage in 2010.

Backers of the increase, including minimum-wage workers and a small business owner from Chicago, said they barely can support themselves and their families on the current minimum wage.

Lathan Cole, 29, of Springfield, said he has a bachelor’s degree in psychology and worked with disabled people at a nonprofit, until he was laid off two years ago during the state’s budget crisis. He now works in a diner for $8.25 an hour.

“I can’t pay my car payment, so my grandfather helps me with that. Sometimes I have to ask my grandmother for gas money,” he said. “I can’t afford to go out to eat. That’s a leisure thing, and that’s not my qualm. It’s that I can’t even meet my bare minimum. It’s really hard.”

Business owners, however, said the hike will cripple their ability to continue operating.

Doug Knight, owner of Knight’s Action Park, a water and recreation park here, hires about 200 teenagers and young adults to work at his business. He said he was forced to scale back his operating hours following the last minimum wage hike in 2010 because he could not stay profitable and had to cut costs.

“If my expenses go up, I have to raise my prices,” Knight, a third-generation businessman, said, noting that his business is tricky because families shop wisely when it comes to vacations, and he has regional competition in Missouri, Wisconsin and Indiana.

“If I can’t be profitable, I can’t grow my business,” Knight said.

State Sen. Kirk Dillard, R-Hinsdale, who said he has supported minimum wage hikes in the past, voted against the measure, saying, “The timing here is terrible,” economically.

Reporter Jayette Bolinski can be reached at jayette.bolinski@franklincenterhq.org.

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4 Comments

  1. Following the President’s lead

    The President has promised to push for income equality.

    Following his lead the taxpayers should require that no city worker/official make more than nine times what the lowest paid employee makes—is that not fair ?

    Since the schcols are tax supported, the teachers and adminiistrators should be able to live on nine times what the crossing guards make.  Certainly the ETHS sports should be equality opportunity and so no football player should weigh more  than the average senior nor basketball player more than the aerage height.  Since taxpayer's taxes support the Bulls, Bears, Cubs, etc.the same type of height/weight requirement should hold. Also cap the salaries at nine times the wage of the ticket collectors—it is only fair.

    Certainly NU that is a bastion of Progressive politics should make sure no official [President on down], teacher [including Kellogg] or coach make more than nine times what the cleaning crew make—I'm sure NU will agree that is only fair.

  2. Why does income inequality exist?

    The in vogue issue of the day is "Income Inequality." 

    Before we address the "problem" do we know why it exists?

    A parallel issue in Evanston and our nation is the Educational "Achievement Gap"

    Do we understand why the Achievement Gap exists and are we willing to address the real underlying causes? Many superficial programmatic changes have been implemented over the last decade in Evanston and our country with little improvement in results.

    Income Inequality poses many complex and vexing issues. But before our Federal, State or Local governments "solve" this problem, let's make sure we have a thorough understanding of its causes.

     

     

     

    1. Achievemennt Gap

      Thomas asked "Do we understand why the Achievement Gap"

      ========================

      We tend to feel that if the students graduate ETHS they have passed the Gap—we [should] all know that is a joke].  If that does not satisfy people, then if they graduate from college, esp. a well known school, we assume they "passed the gap."  We know that even major undergraduate universities do not always meet the standard of many other countries [a number of our graduate schools do and surpass most of the others].  What most of our high schools and even many colleges says is their math and science education is a joke—it is watered down so as they say in business schools "math for poets."  Even AP and STEM many times don't live up to what they proclaim they are.  The humanities and social sciences—well they have become indoctrination in the teachers pet philosophy not a rigorous liberal arts program where critical thinking and exposure to multiple views and looking at ideas.

      There ARE of course a number of very fiine and gifted high school and college grads that meet or exceed any in the world.  But mostly our "schools" are not turning them out.  Mostly they exceed standards by working VERY hard, having parents/tutors who help and encourage [realistic not "you are great no matter how you do] them and a few excellent teachers that spark them, provide them with challenges and when they cannot help any longer pair them up with university professors/programs.

      Until we recognize the 'general' weakness of our schools we will not meet any gap—not the gap blamed on income, social status, early education.or the others politicians always bring up.

       

  3. Minimum Wage, Education and Reality
    To tie education into the minimum wage, while it has a connection, as we all know those with higher levels of education make more. But the economy deals with this differently, how many recent law graduates are making the large pay checks the law schools told them? I was told of one recent grad who is working as a waitess ( minimum wage job )
    If everyone could have the grades,skills and ability to go to professional schools we would have too many professionals and no were near enough jobs, so many would be working in minimum wage jobs and the wages of those in the professional schools would drop.
    Those who want income equality – do they want all jobs to pay the same? That was suppose to have existing in the communist counties does not even exist there anymore, how many billionaires are now in Russia?

    Businesses will adjust to this some will absorb it, others will layoff workers, those who get the increase will not be much better off, it just pure politics. State leaders are no different than the group that runs this city they are just as out of touch with reality.

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