SPRINGFIELD — Legislation that would increase the state minimum wage to $11 an hour by 2021 will not be discussed as part of the Illinois Senate’s “grand bargain” until further negotiations are held.
Sen. Kimberly Lightford, D-Maywood, who sponsored the bill, said the Senate is still working on establishing a minimum wage proposal that different supporting groups can agree on.
“It’s still part of the package,” Lightford said. “We are just not ready to call it.”
The Senate adjourned Thursday without taking any votes on its compromise plan to end the state’s ongoing budget impasse. The package also includes tax increases and changes to the state’s workers’ compensation laws, along with several other proposals.
Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, told senators to be ready to begin voting on the plan Feb. 7 when they return to the Capitol.
For now, the minimum wage bill isn’t being included, Cullerton spokesman John Patterson said.
Supporters of a minimum wage increase include the Service Employees International Union Healthcare Illinois, which has advocated for a $15-an-hour minimum wage.
Under the proposed legislation, Chicago and the rest of Cook County, whose minimum wages are $11 an hour and $8.25 an hour, respectively, would not be able to adjust their minimum wages according to the cost of living once they reach $13 an hour. Chicago’s will hit $13 in 2019, and Cook County’s will reach that level the following year.
Lightford said SEIU is unsatisfied with that part of the proposal.
On the other hand, Senate Republicans had proposed increasing the statewide minimum wage to $10 an hour over a seven-year period. They also supported freezing the Chicago and Cook County rates at $13.
“A lot of compromise had to take shape in order for us to get a minimum wage deal,” Lightford said.
She added that Democrats would still like to align with Republican senators who have agreed to support a minimum wage increase.
The final proposal made by Senate Democrats after negotiating with SEIU, Senate Republicans and other groups established a minimum wage increase to $11 an hour over a four-year period.
After voters overwhelmingly supported an advisory referendum on increasing the minimum wage, the Senate approved bills in 2014 and 2015 to increase the minimum wage to $11 an hour by 2019, but neither was approved in the House.
“If we continue to drag this on for another two years, the same group of people who could be at $11 are still at $8.25,” Lightford said. “I am excited we are finally at this point, and I do not want to miss the opportunity to help.”
Lightford said additional conversations will take place to garner support from SEIU or move forward without it.
“I think politics have to be set aside and recognize that we’re trying to help people who work hard every day and give them a chance at pulling themselves out of poverty … with a fair, livable wage,” she said.
Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, said that while he does not agree with the entire language of the proposal, he would like for it be part of the Senate’s grand bargaining package.
“I think there was a reason why it was included in the initial package,” he said. “I understand the disagreement about the specific aspects to it. I would like to see it worked out … when the Senate takes votes on those measures.”
While some Republicans don’t support the idea of raising the minimum wage at the state level, they also don’t see it as a deal breaker if it’s part of an overall compromise on the budget and other issues.
Sen. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon, said raising the state minimum wage, which is already $1 higher than the federal rate, is “just not good economics.”
But Righter said he’s open to the idea as part of a broader discussion that includes efforts to pay down the state’s nearly $11 billion backlog of unpaid bills and “substantive economic reforms, such as workers’ compensation reform.”
“This is a compromise and negotiation, and that means both parties get some of what they want but neither party gets everything it wants,” he said.
The House continues to propose legislation that would increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour by October but has not passed any legislation on the subject.
— Dan Petrella contributed to this report.