The Illinois Senate Executive Committee voted along party lines Thursday to approve a measure that would raise the state's minimum wage from $8.25 to $10.65 over three years.
State Sen. Kimberly Lightford (D-Maywood) sponsored the bill, SB 68, which now needs approval from the full Senate.
After the committee hearing Thursday, Lightford told the State Journal-Register that she is working to "move this measure to the floor," but added that she has "identified some areas that I believe we should have further discussion (around),” such as the minimum wage for teens and tipped workers.
Opponents of the proposed legislation include groups like the Illinois Retail Merchants Association and the National Federation of Independent Business, both of which testified before the committee.
Members of Raise Illinois, a statewide coalition working to raise the minimum wage, testified in support of the bill. In a statement, Raise Illinois said it believes "increasing the minimum wage will reduce the strain on our social safety net caused by inadequate wages – something that small business owners agreed with."
"According to the Small Business Majority’s polling, 54 percent of small business owners agree that 'increasing the minimum wage would allow people to afford basic necessities and decrease the pressure on taxpayer-financed government assistance to make up for the low wages paid by some employers,'" the group noted.
Howard Wial, economist and director of the Center for Urban Economic Development at the University of Illinois at Chicago, added that boosting the minimum wage "will give low-wage workers a much needed raise, help reduce income inequality, and stimulate the state’s economy by boosting consumer demand."
“The arguments that raising the minimum wage will hurt our economy, or cost jobs, simply aren’t true and do not hold up to serious scrutiny by researchers,” Wial stressed.
Currently, some 400,000 people hold minimum wage jobs in Illinois. A full-time minimum wage worker makes a little more than $17,000 a year before taxes.
Companion minimum wage legislation in the state House, HB 3718, is still pending in the Rules Committee.