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Springfield, IL: Groups Seeks $10 an Hour Minimum Wage
The Herald Review
Kevin McDermott

February 12, 2011
View the Original Article

SPRINGFIELD — Illinois’ minimum wage should be pushed above $10 an hour over the next few years and then tied to the cost of living, advocates said, launching a new campaign to increase a rate that’s already higher than that of its neighbors.

“People who work for a living have to make a living wage,” said Madeline Talbott, an organizer for a coalition of workers, union leaders and others pushing the plan. They argued that a higher minimum wage was a “moral issue,” and would pump money into the Illinois economy through increased spending by workers.

Business groups and other opponents say it would hurt the economy and the very workers it’s meant to help, as employers cut back their payrolls. The plan “is the kind of reckless proposal that defies logic and certainly stops any kind of economic recovery that may have been going on with small business,” the National Federation of Independent Business said.

Illinois’ current minimum wage of $8.25 an hour went into effect in July. The state is tied with Nevada and Connecticut for third-highest rate in the nation, behind Oregon ($8.50) and Washington ($8.67).

The federal minimum wage is $7.25, which is the same as Missouri’s rate.

Proponents want Illinois’ rate over the next four years brought up to $10.65, which they say is the equivalent in today’s dollars to what minimum-wage workers made in 1968. Once it reaches that level, they want it tied to the annual cost of living index.

Talbott, speaking Thursday for a coalition called “Raise Illinois,” argued that minimum wage increases had a more dramatic effect on the economy than other forms of economic stimulation because “minimum wage workers spend every dime they have. They don’t have a choice.”

Kim Clarke Maisch, Illinois state director of the Federation of Independent Business, noted that the Illinois poverty rate has risen significantly since 2000, even as the state’s minimum wage has been upped repeatedly.

“Has our current high wage resulted in more people working? The answer is no,” she said.

Legislation to increase the rate is being sponsored by state Sen. Kimberly Lightford, D-Westchester, an assistant majority leader in the Senate. The legislation’s chances are uncertain in a year when Illinois has already enacted a controversial income tax increase on businesses and individuals.

The bill is SB1565.