One of the first legislative priorities of Illinois Democratic lawmakers during the administration of Gov. J.B. Pritzker is to raise the minimum wage.
On Thursday, the state Senate approved a proposal to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025. The rate has been $8.25 an hour since 2010.
Democratic legislators seem to be fast-tracking the measure so Pritzker can brag about an accomplishment when he gives a budget address on Feb. 20. The legislature approved a similar minimum-wage increase measure last year but former Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed it.
Now, it seems like Democrats want to show how the legislative and executive branches can get things done by working in unison, unlike the partisan gridlock that characterized the Rauner years.
The bill now goes to the House. Some people want the state to slow down and consider different minimum wage rates for different parts of the state. New York and Oregon, for example, recently adopted a regionalized approach for minimum-wage increases. Employers in small towns and rural areas won’t have to pay the same rates as businesses in bigger cities.
Here in Illinois, some argue that it’s unfair to impose a higher minimum wage for rural areas Downstate. The cost of living is less in many places than it is in Chicago and suburban Cook County, critics said.
The south suburbs have struggled with the minimum-wage issue ever since Chicago voted in 2014 to gradually raise its rate until it reaches $13 an hour on July 1, 2019. In late 2016, the Cook County Board passed an ordinance increasing the minimum wage to $13 an hour by 2020 to match the increase in Chicago.
But Cook County allowed its more than 130 suburban municipalities to opt out of the minimum-wage requirements. By summer 2017, 107 towns — or 80 percent of suburban municipalities — voted to opt out of the requirements, according to the Illinois Policy Institute.
A lot of policy groups, trade organizations and others added their voices to the debate. Suburban municipal leaders seemed to listen to concerns raised by business owners about the higher costs of increased wages.
By listening to chambers of commerce and other business groups, municipal leaders probably thought they were acting in the best interests of their communities by opting out of the minimum wage requirements.
But by doing so, they may have overlooked the best interests of many of their towns’ residents. During a raging debate with many loud voices, often the people who are not heard are the ones who cannot afford to pay someone to speak on their behalf.
Tens of thousands of our neighbors in the Southland work minimum-wage jobs and struggle every month to pay for housing, food, health care and other costs. Some work in warehouses, in retail or in food service or hospitality jobs. Many adults work more than one minimum-wage job to provide for their families.
Many people who live in the south suburbs have to travel to jobs in northern and western suburbs. They face added costs for transportation and child care.
Cook County asked suburban voters in November about increasing the minimum wage. An advisory referendum asked, “Shall the minimum wage in your municipality match the $13 per hour Cook County minimum wage law for adults over the age of 18 by July 1, 2020, and be indexed to the consumer price index after that?”
Nearly 900,000 people voted on the question. More than 660,000 voters — or 80 percent — answered “yes” to the question. That represented a margin of four to one countywide in favor of the measure.
The level of support varied throughout the county, according to township and precinct vote totals made available by the Cook County clerk’s office. In more affluent Barrington Township, for example, the margin of victory was less than two to one. In Maine Township, voters said “yes” to increasing the minimum wage by a margin of about three to one.
In Lemont Township, 5,696 voters supported the increase while 3,235 opposed it. In Palos Township, 13,127 voters said “yes” to the wage increase question and 5,096 said “no.” Orland Township saw a similar margin of more than two to one in support of the question. In Worth Township, the margin was nearly four to one.
In Bremen Township, the margin was nearly five to one, with 28,316 votes in favor and 6,173 against an increase. In Bloom Township, 23,968 people voted “yes” and 3,454 voted “no,” a margin of nearly seven to one.
Rich Township saw big margins: 29,220 voted in favor of increasing the minimum wage compared to 2,725 who voted against it.
In places where median incomes were lower, support for the referendum also was large. In Thornton Township, the margin was more than 10 to one in favor, with 47,607 “yes” votes and 4,505 “no” votes cast.
The highest level of support for the question among Cook County’s 30 suburban townships was in Calumet Township, where 5,021 people voted in favor and 301 voted against an increase. That’s a margin of more than 16 to 1.
The referendum was advisory, meaning that the results didn’t require municipalities to increase their minimum-wage rates. The question merely gave people the opportunity to voice how they felt about the issue.
The results showed that support for a wage increase was strong throughout suburban Cook County, and the strongest support was in parts of the south suburbs.
Thursday’s Senate vote to increase the minimum wage statewide to $15 by 2025 is good news for many south suburban residents. If approved by the House and signed into law by the governor, the move should help Southlanders who work many hours every week just to pay their bills.
The bill proposes a tax credit that would help employers with 50 or fewer full-time employees offset some of the cost of raising wages.
01-All No Sub,02-Pol,16-Econ,19-Legal,22-Talk,26-Delivered,24-ILGA,E Hastings,E Bob,HL,HL New,RKPRS HL
Region: South Suburbs,Opinion
via Southtown Opinion – Daily Southtown http://bit.ly/2WDmF83
February 7, 2019 at 04:45PM