SPRINGFIELD — Business groups and lawmakers say Gov. Pat Quinn’s bid to boost the minimum wage would bring job creation in Illinois to a screeching halt.
In his State of the State speech Wednesday, Quinn said he is supporting a proposal that would increase the current $8.25-an-hour level to $10 over the course of four years.
“Nobody in Illinois should work 40 hours and live in poverty,” Quinn said. “That’s a principle as old as the Bible.”
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.
Kim Clarke Maisch, state director of the National Federation of Independent Business, said it is ironic that Quinn is telling small business owners how to run their businesses when the state budget is a mess.
“Our members had hoped Governor Quinn would use his State of the State address to talk about how Illinois can once again become a premier state to do business in,” Maisch said. “Unfortunately, he chose to embrace a minimum wage hike which will do little but cause small businesses to cut employee hours and jobs.”
David Vite, president of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association, which represents 23,000 retailers in the state, said the governor and the General Assembly should focus on solving the state’s pension crisis.
“Another minimum wage hike will only hurt those who are looking for a job and those who employ them in this challenging economy,” Vite said.
Lawmakers, including state Reps. John Bradley of Marion, Mike Bost of Murphysboro and Don Moffitt of Gilson, sounded skeptical of the governor’s plan.
“I have a concern about the minimum wage hike proposal. We don’t want to do anything that would discourage job creation in Illinois,” said Moffitt, a Republican.
“We have to compete with the states around us,” said Bost, also a Republican.
The governor’s chief business booster said he disagrees that a wage increase would harm the state’s economy.
“Having a minimum wage that the governor has suggested is all about creating economic security for people to be able to be good consumers,” said Adam Pollet, acting director of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. “That’s what businesses need to grow here in the state.”