SPRINGFIELD – A bill to raise Illinois’ minimum wage passed the state Senate on partisan lines Thursday after Gov. J.B. Pritzker made a personal appeal to Democratic lawmakers at a private caucus prior to the vote.
Senate Bill 1 received only Democratic votes as it passed by a 39-18 margin, putting the onus on the Illinois House to get the bill to Pritzker’s desk by his requested deadline of Feb. 20, when he is scheduled to give his budget address.
While no Republicans voted for the bill – and several spoke against it on the floor citing concerns about businesses leaving the state, unforeseen costs on schools and universities, and the potential for job loss for low-wage employees – Pritzker said conservative voices helped shape the legislation.
“I talked personally with several senators to make sure their ideas were incorporated. I talked with many of the interest groups that represent businesses, and Republican interests, to incorporate those into the bill,” Pritzker said during a news conference in his office at which no elected Republicans were present.
Interest groups are expected to continue to lobby for changes when the bill is heard in the House – particularly for an amendment to include a regional rollout of the minimum wage for lower rates downstate. But Rep. Will Guzzardi, a Chicago Democrat and SB1’s House sponsor, said as far as he’s concerned, his chamber should approve the current Senate version.
If approved as is, the minimum wage will be phased in over 6 years, starting with an increase from $8.25 to $9.25 on Jan. 1, 2020, before increasing to $10 on July 1, 2020, and $11 on Jan. 1, 2021. After that, it would increase by $1 every year until it hits $15 in 2025.
Kimberly Lightford, a Maywood Democrat and the bill’s Senate sponsor, said compromise is reflected in the 6-year rollout and in a small business tax credit which won’t affect Chicago businesses until the wage exceeds Chicago’s minimum, which is currently $12.
The tax credit is available to businesses with fewer than 50 “full-time equivalent” employees, which means businesses that pay less than 2,000 employee hours in a 1-week period.
The credit would start at 25 percent of the difference between the current minimum wage and an employee’s wage in the final quarter of the previous calendar year. It would decrease by 4 percent each year until it hits 5 percent in the final 2 years.
Employers with 2,000 or fewer employee hours will be able to take advantage of the credit for 7 years, while employees with 200 or fewer employee hours will be able to take advantage of the credit for 8 years.
But Senate Republicans said those assurances are not enough for businesses, and the wages would force property tax hikes by increasing costs for K-12 schools, and will lead to greater requests for state appropriations from colleges and universities.
Sen. Jason Barickman, a Bloomington Republican, said he was told by Illinois State University the bill would cost $600,000 in year one alone due to the campus’s employment of 5,000 to 6,000 student employees.