SPRINGFIELD — A push to increase Illinois’ minimum wage advanced in the General Assembly on Wednesday, but the sponsor of the legislation suggested it could be months before the measure is called for a vote in the full Senate.
Sen. Kim Lightford, D-Maywood, said she wants to continue negotiating details in her proposal with business groups who are opposed to her plan to boost the current rate of $8.25 per hour to more than $10 an hour by 2015.
“It could take a week or two,” Lightford said. “It could take eight or nine months. I don’t know.”
The proposal, which was forwarded to the full Senate on a 9-5 vote of the Senate Executive Committee, is opposed by business owners who say it would make it harder for Illinois to compete for jobs at a time when the economy remains on shaky footing.
Kelly Wingard, who co-owns the Wildflour Artisan Bakery & Café in Decatur, told members of the Senate panel that she would have to lay off employees, raise prices and risk losing customers if the increase were imposed.
She said her fledgling business operates on a such a slim margin that she often works for no pay.
“Truth be told, most of my employees are better off than I am,” Wingard said.
Illinois is among 18 states with minimum wage rates higher than the national level of $7.25 an hour. The rate was last raised in July 2010 as part of a phased-in increase initiated by former Gov. Rod Blagojevich in 2006.
Lightford said an increase will put more money in the pockets of workers and result in increased retail spending, which will then help create more jobs.
“If you’re willing to work a 40 week, you shouldn’t have to live in poverty,” Lightford said.
The legislation is Senate Bill 1565.