Pritzker signs $15 minimum wage
Governor declares Illinois ‘a state that welcomes working families’
By Ted Cox
Gov. Pritzker signed a $15-an-hour minimum wage into law Tuesday.
”Today, we boldly declare that Illinois is a state that welcomes working families, setting a high standard for workers’ rights, economic opportunity, and economic justice,” Pritzker said in a signing ceremony at the Governor’s Mansion in Springfield.
The first major legislative victory of Pritzker’s administration, the new minimum wage raced through the General Assembly, passing the Senate two weeks ago, a day after it was introduced by Sen. Kimberly Lightford, then cleared the House last week exactly a month after Pritzker took office.
“I traveled the state for the last two years and promised the workers of Illinois that I would stand up for them and fight for 15,” Pritzker said. “Today it’s my great honor to deliver on that commitment.”
Calling it “a great day for Illinois’s working families,” Pritzker pointed out the new minimum wage was “a long time coming,” as it’s been set at $8.25 an hour since 2010.
The new law raises the minimum wage a dollar to $9.25 next year, then to $10 midway through 2020 in July, and then in incremental annual steps to $15 in 2025. Pritzker said the six-year process, as well as state tax credits for small businesses and nonprofits, would “ease the transition.”
Not everyone agreed. Illinois Republican Party Chairman Timothy Schneider called it “only the beginning of J.B. Pritzker’s war on taxpayers and small business,” adding that “nearly doubling the minimum wage will destroy entry-level jobs, raise prices for consumers, and bust budgets at every level of government.”
The Illinois Farm Bureau also opposed it. “We shared our opposition in writing to all state legislators and worked to get our message out to the general media,” said IFB President Richard Guebert Jr. last week. “County Farm Bureau leaders also reached out to legislators and adopted legislators.”
But studies by the Illinois Economic Policy Institute and the Project for Middle Class Renewal at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have found not only that a $13 minimum wage benefited Chicago and its workforce, but that the $15 minimum wage would have the greatest impact on workers outside the Chicago area.
Calling it “a victory for the cause of economic justice,” Pritzker echoed that Tuesday, saying, “Today, we are saying that the right to a fair wage does not end at Chicago’s border. Workers in East St. Louis, and Peoria, and Springfield deserve that same fair pay.”
Citing the support of the Illinois Restaurant Association, as well as prominent labor groups, he said, “Businesses large and small, from local restaurants to Amazon, made it clear that hardworking employees should be fairly compensated.”
Pritzker lauded the grassroots groups Fight for $15 and Women Employed, and credited legislative leaders Lightford in the Senate and Reps. Jay Hoffman, Will Guzzardi, and Marcus Evans in the House for shepherding the bill through the General Assembly.
“This is a monumental day for our state, a day that redefines what it means to live and work in Illinois,” Pritzker said.
“This is a monumental day for our state, a day that redefines what it means to live and work in Illinois.”
Gov. J.B. Pritzker (One Illinois/Ted Cox)
Pritzker insisted he’d continue to address the needs of Illinois workers with his first budget address, set to be delivered at noon Wednesday in the state Capitol, saying, “In the months that follow, I will work with the General Assembly to advance my agenda to bring real and lasting opportunity to all of our working families. We’ll pass a capital bill to put people to work restoring the infrastructure of our state. We’ll help our small businesses grow, and we’ll attract new businesses, large and small, to Illinois. We’ll also pass a fair income tax that will lower taxes on the middle class and those striving to get there. We make no little plans. So stay tuned.
“But today we celebrate,” he added. “This will improve the lives of families across Illinois, and it will lift people out of poverty. The accomplishment here is nothing short of historic.
“Because of the people in this room and leaders, advocates, and workers across our state, 1.4 million Illinoisans are going to get a raise, 1.4 million Illinoisans are getting new opportunity and new hope. Let’s be proud of that. Let’s celebrate that. And then, let’s remember there’s more work to be done for working families.”