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Pulliam

The clock tower of SIU's Pulliam Hall is seen through the trees.

CARBONDALE — Southern Illinois University Carbondale estimates that bringing the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour would cost the school about $6.9 million annually.

SIU Carbondale and the School of Medicine in Springfield, which are funded jointly, employ about 2,300 students and 600 other employees that make less than $15 an hour, according to SIU spokeswoman Rae Goldsmith.

Goldsmith said that SIU does not have a position on the proposal to hike the state’s minimum wage for the first time in nearly a decade.

“We are simply providing our analysis of the financial impact,” Goldsmith said. The minimum wage hike is backed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who has urged the proposal to move quickly through the General Assembly.

The Illinois Senate approved a bill on Thursday that would incrementally raise Illinois’ $8.25 per hour minimum wage to $15 by the year 2025. Southern Illinois’ two senators, both Republicans, opposed the measure, citing their concerns on how it would affect small businesses, agriculture production, municipalities, K-12 schools, community colleges and SIU.

Fowler said on the Senate floor that he has heard from numerous employers in his district, the vast majority of which oppose the bill. But Fowler said that he is most concerned for how the change would affect SIU, one of the region’s largest employers.

“Student employees that could possibly, and probably will, lose those jobs, rely on these jobs to pay for their education,” Fowler said.

As the bill proposes stepping in the minimum wage increase, it would cost SIU increasingly more each year, beginning with about $1.25 million more in 2020, $4 million more by 2023 and about $6.9 million once fully implemented.

In a week-in-review newsletter, Fowler reiterated his concerns about the bill. “While I can recognize efforts to provide more wage earners of this state, I cannot support a measure that has the potential for widespread harm to the business sector of Southern Illinois,” Fowler said in his newsletter.

Sen. Paul Schimpf, R-Waterloo, expressed similar concerns. He said he’s received a number of calls from small business owners saying, “I’m really worried that I’m going to have to close my doors.”

“I have a lot of people in small towns in my district that are worried that jobs are going to go to Missouri,” he said.

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molly.parker@thesouthern.com

618-351-5079

On Twitter: @MollyParkerSI ​

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Molly Parker is general assignment and investigative projects reporter for The Southern Illinoisan.

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