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General Assembly passes minimum wage increase

As the final day of the regularly scheduled spring legislative came to a close, Illinois Democrat leaders passed a minimum wage increase that critics worry would stifle job-growth, hurt small businesses struggling to stay afloat in a difficult economy, drive up consumer costs and potentially cost hardworking people their jobs as businesses make cuts to meet the demand for higher minimum wage costs.

Illinois’ current minimum wage is $8.25 an hour, a full dollar above the federal level and higher than minimum wage rates paid in all of its neighboring states. Under Senate Bill 81, it would increase incrementally to $15 hours by 2022, leading to at least an 82% increase in labor costs for Illinois employers.

Opponents contend that business owners, especially small businesses, cannot simply absorb the higher cost of doing business and will be forced to cut their work force, go out of business, or go out of state. Additionally, they argue that high minimum wages are killing opportunity in cities. For example, in the City of Chicago, which has a starting wage of $10.50, unemployment among residents with limited skills continues at historic levels.

Senator Tom Rooney (R-Rolling Meadows) also noted the danger such an increase could have on current minimum wage earners and future availability of job openings as businesses are forced to make cuts, clamp down on growth and reduce costs.

“When we consider minimum wage increases, some people immediately think of businesses, but there’s also the other side of the coin—those employees who will also be collateral damage,” says Rooney. “We’re talking about cutting employees, putting some out of work and damaging the possibility for future growth and opportunities so that a smaller pool of people can earn more. We have to consider what happens to those who will lose jobs as businesses are forced to reduce costs and those who will continue to be unemployed as job openings become more scarce and businesses struggle to support the workers they already employee.”

Senate Bill 81 will be sent next to the Governor for consideration. 

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