From Illinois Public Radio - News Local/State -

Minimum Wage Hike Proposal Clears Senate Committee

A plan to raise the minimum wage in Illinois has cleared its first legislative hurdle. But it continues to draw criticism from business groups.

The plan would gradually increase the state's minimum wage to $10.65 an hour. Illinois' current rate is $8.25, already one of the highest in the nation.

Proponents say putting more money into the pockets of low-income workers will boost the economy. But Rob Carr, with the Illinois Retail Merchants Association, disagrees.

"We know it doesn't fight poverty because over the same decade that we've had the minimum wage go up 50 percent, Illinois' poverty rate has increased 36 percent," he said.

Carr said the hike would be a "job-killer," especially for small businesses, like Mike Murphy's.

Murphy has owned Charlie Parker's Diner in Springfield through nine increases in the minimum wage.  He opposes another, but asked Thursday whether those hikes have cost his employees jobs.

"I have not fired someone, nor have I closed the business," he said.  "I'm not crying wolf here. I will not close my business because of that. We will make it work, but it will be painful."

Sen. Kim Lightford (D-Maywood) has been working to raise Illinois' minimum wage for years.  She said boosting it to $10.65 an hour means "living wage."

"If you're still relying on government assistance, then we're really not doing ourselves a service in government because our goal is to move as many people off government assistance and allow them to be reliable themselves," she said.

The legislation was approved in committee and is awating a vote by the full Senate.

Meanwhile, Gov. Pat Quinn made his push to increase Illinois' minimum wage by shopping at a Gap clothing store in downtown Chicago.  The chain has instituted a policy of paying entry-level employees a higher minimum wage.
 
Quinn bought three sweaters for his young nieces on Thursday. The total was about $77 and he paid cash. Quinn called the store an example and added that he got quality clothes at a good price.
 
Raising the minimum wage is a major campaign theme in Quinn's re-election bid against Republican Bruce Rauner.
 
Quinn wants Illinois' rate to be at least $10 by year's end.