Senate Democrats advance $15 minimum wage plan

 Majority Leader Kimberly A. Lightford joins with her colleagues after passing a minimum wage increase in the Illinois Senate.

Senate Democrats voted to raise wages for more than 1 million working Illinois families today by voting to raise the state's minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025.

If passed by the House and signed by Governor JB Pritzker, it would represent the first minimum wage increase in Illinois in a decade.

“The people who keep businesses going deserve a salary that allows them to take care of their financial responsibilities, whether that is taking care of a family, paying off student loans or simply covering their basic needs,” sponsor Majority Leader Kimberly A. Lightford said.

Under the proposal, the state’s minimum hourly wage of $8.25 would increase incrementally to $15 per hour between now and 2025. The legislation, Senate Bill 1, also offsets the wage increase by providing a tax refund for businesses that employ fewer than 50 workers.

There is ample public support for a minimum wage increase in Illinois. In 2014, voters were asked if they support an increase; 67 percent of them supported the non-binding question. Voter support was again overwhelming in 2018 for a similar referendum.

The Senate approved the measure today in a 39-18 vote. The House must take it up before the legislation can go to the governor’s desk for approval.

Senator Democrats reacted to today's vote with the following statements:

Senator Christopher Belt (D-Cahokia):

“Raising the minimum wage to $15 will help our workers better support our economy. We cannot expect workers or individuals who have to pay back student loans to be able to afford the cost of living when they only make $8.25."

Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign):

“Since the day I was sworn in to the Senate, I have pledged to do all I can to help make lives easier for families across Champaign and Vermilion Counties. By increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025 for the majority of workers, we are achieving the goal of lifting working families up to improve their quality of life.

“Workers with full-time jobs should never be forced to live in poverty. Minimum wage workers are employed in many of the service jobs that are vital to the care of the most vulnerable and in jobs that serve the public. They deserve a fair wage that respects the work they do in service to others.

“Putting the minimum wage on a clear and responsible path toward $15 an hour will provide Illinois’ hardest workers with dignity, fairness and stability.”

Senator Melinda Bush (D-Grayslake):

“The minimum wage should be a living wage. Any individual who works full time should be able to provide for their family without having to rely on government assistance. This move is long overdue. Raising the minimum wage will lift up Illinois families and provide stability for Illinois workers.”

Senator Cristina Castro (D-Elgin):

“In the past, individuals could work 40 hours a week on the minimum wage and meet their financial responsibilities. Now, that kind of income barely covers basic needs, especially those who provide for an entire family. The gradual increase will allow for businesses to adapt to the new law. We’re committed to making sure local economies adapt to a new wage structure that will ultimately save money for all taxpayers, as fewer working families have to rely on government services to survive.”

Senator Jacqueline Collins (D-Chicago):

“A working family should not need to be on food stamps in order to survive. Economists argue that by the measure of Americans' productivity – their output and real accomplishments while at work – the minimum wage should now be more than $19 per hour. To afford the average rent on a two-bedroom apartment in Illinois requires a wage of nearly $21 per hour. This is just a step toward achieving sustainability for Illinois families that doesn’t come at the expense of taxpayers.”

Senator Tom Cullerton (D-Villa Park):

“For far too long nearly 38,000 of our military veterans in Illinois who make the minimum wage were unable to keep a roof over their family’s head and food on the table without government assistance. Implementing a fair wage will allow these hardworking heroes to live a life full of dignity, fairness and stability.”

Senator Bill Cunningham (D-18th District):

“Working mothers and fathers in Illinois should not be forced to work multiple jobs just to provide the bare minimum their families need to get by. A living wage is not a privilege, but a basic human right and we must ensure every Illinois worker has access to this right.

“This legislation will help bring stability to families who are struggling to make ends meet. Illinois workers have long deserved a raise and I am proud to support the measure that will bring it to them.”

Senator Laura Fine (D-Glenview):

“Wages have been stagnant for nearly a decade, but the cost of living certainly has not, and minimum wage workers have struggled to keep up. This has been going on for far too long, and I’m proud to have helped the Senate pass this important legislation that will help so many people throughout the state.”

Senator Ann Gillespie (D-Arlington Heights):

“I believe Springfield should work for working families, and we can start by investing in people who work the hardest but earn the least. A significant increase in the minimum wage is long overdue in Illinois, and I am pleased to support this effort on behalf of working people.

“I am proud to have represented the will of voters today by supporting this important bill."

Assistant Majority Leader Don Harmon (D-Oak Park):

“Working wages have not kept up with inflation over the past several decades. The ‘American dream’ of being able to provide for a family by working 40 hours a week is not a reality with the current minimum wage.

“I am proud that Illinois is now a leader in ensuring the hard-working families in our state earn a living wage.”

Senator Napoleon Harris (D-Harvey):

“The minimum wage has remained stagnant for the past decade. Meanwhile, the cost of basic necessities has continued to increase. I’m glad we were able to move a step closer to helping working families meet their needs."

Senator Michael E. Hastings (D-Tinley Park):

"The passage of this historic measure is long overdue. Over the past decade, workers have not seen a change in the minimum wage, but they have seen an increase in the cost of living.

"My district voted in 2014 to increase the minimum wage and I heard them. I also heard those that work in industries like home health care and those with developmental disabilities. They have tough jobs and deserve to get paid a fair working wage. But it is important to take into consideration how employers and businesses implement the wage increase."

Senator Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago):

“We have talked long enough about putting Illinois on a responsible path to $15 minimum wage and today is the first step along that path. This will allow millions of workers in our state to provide for themselves and their families.

“We’re giving working families the raise and providing the stability they deserve. This puts us on the right trajectory to helping people in our state move their lives forward.”

Senator Toi Hutchinson (D-Chicago Heights):

“Every Senator in this body represents constituents in our districts who wake up every morning when it is still dark outside and go to work. They work all day and string together hourly jobs just to make ends meet. Then they get up and do it all over again. They don’t have a lobbyist to fight for their behalf – they only have us.

“Today is our day to lift up millions of working Illinoisans who despite their hard work, still live every day in poverty.”

Senator Emil Jones III (D-Chicago):

“Increasing the minimum wage is something we have been waiting to do for years. Personally, I’ve been eager to see the minimum wage increase again since coming to the Senate in 2009.

“Lawmakers voted to increase the minimum wage a couple of years ago, but Gov. Rauner vetoed the plan, hindering people from getting a more suitable living wage faster. This time around I believe workers will finally get the wages they deserve.”

Assistant Majority Leader Terry Link (D-Indian Creek):

“Working families haven’t seen a raise in Illinois since 2010, while costs for housing, child care and food have only continued to increase. The compromise plan I supported today gradually increases wages while providing a key tax refund for small businesses. For thousands of Illinois families struggling to get by, this increase will provide more security and stability in their everyday lives.”

Assistant Majority Leader Iris Y. Martinez (D-Chicago):

“This raise for the hard-working people of our state is long overdue. It is unacceptable for someone who works full-time to struggle to pay for food and housing costs. I am glad we finally took a step towards making sure our working families receive a living wage.”

Senator Pat McGuire (D-Crest Hill):

“Fair pay for hard work is the American way. A higher minimum wage will boost families and the Illinois economy.”

Senator John Mulroe (D-Chicago):

“Taxpayers are supplementing low wages with public money in the form of food stamps, Medicaid and housing assistance, all at the expense of the dignity of people who work 40 hours a week and still need such help. A full-time job deserves a living wage. These incremental increases to the minimum wage bring us closer to sustainability for workers while giving businesses time to adjust to the new levels.”

Assistant Majority Leader Tony Munoz (D-Chicago):

“Working people deserve this raise. They have been hit by increasing housing costs, rising costs for college and other basic necessities. Today, we voted for working families who despite working full time still struggle to make ends meet.”

Senator Robert Peters (D-Chicago):

“Wages have remained unchanged for years despite worker productivity being at an all-time high. It has been too long since the working class people of our state have received just compensation for the labor they provide. I'd like to thank Senate  Majority Leader Kimberly Lightford for her years of hard work on this extremely important issue, and I'm honored to have voted for the bill that finally let her achieve her goal.

“This would never have been possible without the efforts of great organizations like the Fight for Fifteen movement. I want to personally thank them for their diligent work in organization and outreach that helped to finally deliver the relief that struggling working class families have desperately needed for the past 30 or 40 years.”

Senator Martin A. Sandoval (D-Chicago):

“The opportunity to earn a fair wage and provide for your family is a right, not a privilege. This wage increase will provide stability to struggling families in Illinois and help them lift themselves out of poverty.

“The men and women of Illinois who work tirelessly to provide for their families are long overdue for a pay increase. It’s absurd that in spite of the rising cost of living, this is the first time we have increased the minimum wage in almost a decade. As members of the General Assembly, it is our duty to protect the dignity and rights of our workers.”

Senator Elgie R. Sims, Jr. (D-Chicago):

“Raising the minimum wage throughout the state is crucial to help struggling, working families in Illinois. This effort was unfortunately blocked by the past administration, but the time is now to provide Illinoisans across our state with a fair wage and provide them the stability they deserve.

“I was proud to stand with my colleagues to pass this historic legislation and help improve the lives of hard-working individuals throughout the state. I know this plan will help working families by bridging the pay gap for seniors, women and minorities across our state.”

Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago):

“Raising the minimum wage in Illinois is a long overdue step that will help restore dignity to working families who are currently struggling to make ends meet, as wages are failing to keep up with the cost of living.

“Additionally, the current, insufficient minimum wage disproportionately impacts groups like women, minorities and senior citizens. Raising the minimum wage is an important component in closing the wage gap.”

Senator Patricia Van Pelt (D-Chicago):

"After years of stagnant wages, it’s time for hardworking Illinoisans to finally get a raise. Raising the minimum wage will help lift families out of poverty and it will have the biggest impact on black, Latino and female workers. I’m proud to support this important effort to help reduce poverty and get us one step closer to closing the income inequality gap.”