Local governments concerned about the impact a $15 minimum wage will have on local economies should be allowed to decide what is best for their communities.
The state’s new minimum wage law sets a one-size-fits-all pay increase schedule that is disproportionately tough on downstate Illinois. We think local governments should be allowed to enact ordinances to set a reduced minimum wage that is less than the statewide wage required under Illinois law.
I have introduced Senate Bill 3396 to provide for minimum wages based upon a percentage of the otherwise required minimum wage, depending upon the region of the State. The legislation establishes six regions for purposes of determining the minimum wage.
Municipalities and/or counties would be allowed, by a vote of the local governing body, to opt-out of the state-mandated minimum wage rates and opt-into a regionally adjusted minimum wage which will be statutorily-authorized and statutorily-approved. It provides a sliding scale type of rate – so areas with historically-low unemployment and/or higher costs of living must keep rates closer to the state-mandated hourly rate.
When the new minimum wage law passed last year, Chicago already had a minimum wage of $13.00, so an increase over six years to $15.00 had minimal impact on Chicago business owners. But downstate, where the cost of living is 20-40 percent less than in Chicago and the minimum wage started at $8.25, getting the minimum wage to $15.00 will cost job with the likely result of the lowest-skilled workers being dropped out of the bottom of the workforce. These employees that need access to starting wage jobs are the employees who do not have as many work options.
The City of Chicago and Cook County would both be exempt from this proposal.
Our proposal would keep the minimum wage higher in higher cost-of-living areas and would allow for a lower wage in areas with a lower cost of living. It would also help areas that are in direct competition with neighboring states, like Danville, the Metro East and the Quad Cities.
Senate Bill 3396 has been introduced in the Senate and awaits assignment to a legislative committee where it will receive a public hearing.
Education funding held hostage
During the week, we raised concerns about a component of Governor J.B. Pritzker’s proposed Fiscal Year 2021 budget that puts K-12 funding at risk unless the Governor’s tax hike is approved.
Since the new school-funding formula was enacted in 2018, Illinois has increased school funding by at least $350 million every year – as required by state law. However, if Governor Pritzker’s costly tax increase is not approved by voters this fall, the formula will be underfunded by $150 million.
Lawmakers should be working toward a balanced budget that funds the state’s priorities, such as K-12 funding, without this priority being tied to a costly tax increase.
Lawmakers’ support for manufacturing gets high marks
Several lawmakers have been recognized for their support of Illinois job creators in the 2019 Legislative Scorecard released by the Technology and Manufacturing Association (TMA).
The annual scorecard recognizes how lawmakers in the General Assembly voted on bills important to the state’s manufacturers. I earned a score of 80 percent in 2019 and currently have the fifth-highest lifetime score in the Senate.
Manufacturing is one of Illinois’ leading industries and plays a critical role in the success of our state’s economy, employing ten percent of the workforce.
As lawmakers, we should be working harder to advocate on behalf of Illinois’ jobs creators, striving to not only retain current manufacturers but to also do more to attract new businesses to the state.