Gov.-elect J.B. Pritzker said Monday the state should consider tax breaks for small businesses to help them cover the cost of a higher state minimum wage.
Speaking after a thank-you rally at the Sangamon County Democratic Headquarters in Springfield, Pritzker said he still supports the idea of gradually raising the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour.
“The issue here is we want to raise the minimum wage,” Pritzker said. “I believe that small businesses are more affected by raising the minimum wage than larger businesses, so we should look at how we can alleviate some of the burden on small business, not by lowering wages or having a different wage for those small businesses, but by providing them with some other benefit.”
Pritzker did not say exactly what that benefit would be, saying he’s not committed to a single idea at this time. He did, however, dangle the idea of offering a tax credit to small businesses to offset the cost of a higher minimum wage.
Illinois currently has a minimum wage of $8.25 an hour. Pritzker wants to raise that to $15, but he admonished reporters not to say it would happen all at once. The higher wage would be phased in over a number of years.
Wisconsin, Indiana and Iowa all have a $7.25-an-hour minimum wage, the amount set in federal law. Missouri has a $7.85-an-hour minimum wage, which will increase to $12 an hour by 2023.
Chicago has a $12-an-hour minimum wage, which will increase to $13 next year.
Pritzker talked about offering tax credits to help offset the costs of a minimum wage hike shortly after repeating he wants to do away with a tax break for those who contribute money to cover the costs of sending low-income students to private or parochial schools.
“There are lots of tax credits that are OK if they spur opportunity for people in the state or if they expand economic growth prospects,” Pritzker said in making a distinction.
Pritzker said the tax breaks for private school scholarships essentially diverts tax resources from public schools.
“Money that could go to public education is being diverted,” he said. “It’s better to put those dollars in public schools.”
Although Pritzker wants to end the program, he said it should be done in a way that doesn’t disrupt families already taking advantage of it.
Pritzker said he wants to move forward quickly with two initiatives that were central to his campaign — legalizing marijuana and creating a new capital construction plan for the state.
Legislators are already working on a bill to legalize recreational marijuana in Illinois that can be considered after a new General Assembly takes office Jan. 9.
Pritzker said he hasn’t decided if he will give separate State of the State and budget messages next year. He said he will give a speech at his inauguration, but beyond that “it depends on how much we need to convey during that one-month period.”
Pritzker also said that as a “competitive sort,” he wanted to talk a little politics, in part saying that his defeat of Gov. Bruce Rauner was by “the largest margin that anybody’s beaten an incumbent governor” in history.
“It’s really because of you,” he said. “We all hung together, we Democrats.”
“I have a theory, which is every Republican out there, they’re really a Democrat who just doesn’t know it yet,” he added to applause. “OK, maybe not everyone.”
He said his frequent visits to central and southern Illinois would continue.
“Of course, I’m moving to Springfield,” he said to cheers. And he said efforts will continue to “make sure that all of central Illinois and all of southern Illinois is turned blue.”
Lt. Gov.-elect Juliana Stratton also addressed the crowd, noting that during the campaign, Pritzker always ended speeches with “Are you ready for the fight?”
“But here’s a question now,” she said. “Are you ready for the work? Over the next four years, we have some really big things that we want to see happen here in Illinois. … We need your energy, we need your ideas, we need your engagement.”
Political columnist Bernard Schoenburg contributed to this report. Contact Doug Finke: email@example.com, 788-1527, twitter.com/dougfinkesjr.
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December 10, 2018 at 05:37PM