Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=215307
Story Retrieval Date: 7/30/2014 8:19:18 PM CST

Top Stories
Features
Quinn State of the State 2013 Ananth Baliga

Laurel White/MEDILL

Quinn backed legislation, already in the state Senate, to increase the minimum wage over the next four years.


A minimum wage at the maximum

by Ananth Baliga
Feb 6, 2013


Gov. Pat Quinn said he wants to the state to move forward to the call of “our Illinois” during his fourth State of the State address Wednesday, calling for an increase in the minimum wage and ensuring government doesn’t hinder small businesses.

Quinn is asking the General Assembly to boost the minimum wage from the present $8.25 per hour to $10, over the next four years. This he felt would be key to increase workforce productivity.

“Nobody in Illinois should work 40 hours a week and live in poverty. That’s a principle as old as the Bible,” Quinn said.

This is not a new idea – state Sen. Kimberley Lightford, a Chicago Democrat, proposed it in 2011. This would make Illinois the state with the highest minimum wage in the country.

The Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, in response to Quinn’s speech, said it was surprised because the business environment in the state was not conducive to this increase in minimum wages.

“Illinois’ economy is still not strong enough to absorb the costs associated with increasing the minimum wage,” said Jerry Roper, president and CEO of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce. “Too many businesses are struggling to make payroll.”

The Workers Organizing Committee of Chicago, an independent newly formed union, feels the raising of the state minimum wage is a step in the right direction to lifting families out of poverty.

The union, drawn from retail and restaurant employees, said that at $8.25 per hour, a full-time worker would earn only $16,500 a year, which they say is not enough money to raise a family.

According to them, the Economic Policy Institute estimates that raising the minimum wage in Illinois higher than proposed, to $10.60, would create 20,000 jobs and $2.5 billion in additional economic activity.

The chamber said it would be advisable for the governor to improve the pension crisis and pass a state budget that would reduce the tax and regulatory burden on businesses, which in turn would lead to job growth.

Speaking about small businesses, Quinn said that state had used $23 million in federal funding to help businesses through the Advantage Illinois program.

“In our Illinois, small business means big business,” said Quinn, reiterating his commitment to small businesses and consumers in Illinois.

Quinn mentioned a strong focus on integrating veterans into the workforce.
He said he wanted to ensure that their military training and skills were better harnessed. For this he signed an executive order earlier in the day that encourages companies to hire veterans and take advantage of the Hiring Veterans Tax Credit.

The state, he said, had created more than 28,000 jobs to replace water pipes and upgrade sewer systems. New clean water jobs would be created in Kankakee, Murphysboro and across Cook County.