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Future Unclear For Illinois House's $15 Wage

Capitol in fog
Amanda Vinicky
NPR Illinois

The Illinois House has approved a plan to raise Illinois’ minimum wage to $15 an hour. But it faces an uphill climb to become law.

A higher minimum wage has been a rallying point for Democrats and labor unions across the country.

Rep. Chris Welch, from Hillside, says his constituents want help bringing home more money.

“If you flip a burger, you should make a decent wage too,” he says.

Illinois currently has an $8.25 minimum. This proposal would have it go up slowly — only reaching $15 in the year 2022.

Republicans and business groups counter that such a high wage would force employers to hire fewer people, or turn to automation — if they can afford it.

“Let me tell you: Places like McDonald’s and Amazon, like you see on TV, are going to be able to have the high-tech stuff. They’re just going to replace people no big deal," Plainfield Rep. Mark Batinick says. "You know who isn’t? The little Mikey’s Hot Dog Stand. The little Joe’s Market.”

The proposal has a way to go before becoming law. A top Democrat immediately put a parliamentary hold on the bill — and refused to say whether he plans to release it.

It could also be vetoed by Governor Bruce Rauner, who has said he’d agree to a more modest minimum wage increase only if Democrats take up his economic agenda.

Brian Mackey formerly reported on state government and politics for NPR Illinois and a dozen other public radio stations across the state. Before that, he was A&E editor at The State Journal-Register and Statehouse bureau chief for the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin.
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