by Scott Reeder
Journalist in Residence
Gov. Pat Quinn has vetoed so few bills this year that the general consensus is that lawmakers won’t have a lot to do when the legislative veto session comes around next month.
There is plenty of speculation about what idle lawmakers will do with their time.
One idea that consistently gets discussed is raising the state’s minimum wage.
Senate Bill 1565 sponsored by state Sen. Kimberly Lightford, D-Chicago, would raise the minimum wage to $10.55 per hour making the Land of Lincoln the state with the highest minimum wage.
Lightford said Tuesday that she met this week with proponents and opponents of the bill. She added she will decide next month whether to call measure for a vote.
“I think raising the minimum wage is a good idea because these people are working. They aren’t asking anybody for anything. They just want to work,” Lightford said.
The current Illinois minimum wage of $8.25 is the third-highest in the nation – just behind Washington and Oregon.
“In an area like the Quad-Cities, we have to be aware that just across the river in Iowa the minimum wage is $7.25. Raising it to $10.55 would put our businesses at a real disadvantage,” said Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline.
Jacobs said he doesn’t believe the votes are there to pass the bill.
But Lightford said the bill has significant support.
In fact, Gov. Pat Quinn has expressed support for raising the minimum wage.
“We are fully prepared for this bill to come up during veto session,” said Kim Clarke Maisch, Illinois director for National Federation of Independent Businesses. “Obviously small business owners are very much opposed to this. They are used to making do with less and if the minimum wage is increased they will simply hire fewer people.”
Sen. Kyle McCarter, R-Lebanon, called the bill a potential disaster for the state.
“Just because some people want to be compassionate is no reason to raise the minimum wage, because if you do, you are going put an enormous burden on the small businesses of this state,” he said. “With the 67 percent tax increase, with a legislature too cowardly to pass workers’ comp reform, with increased litigation and regulation the last thing you want to do is to put more burden on small businesses with a higher minimum wage.”