SPRINGFIELD — Wrangling among the Republican candidates for governor about raising Illinois' minimum wage could be empty chatter by the time voters choose a state chief executive in November.
With Democrats in control of the General Assembly and Gov. Pat Quinn pushing them to act, it is possible that lawmakers could boost the minimum wage during this spring's legislative session.
Aides to Senate President John Cullerton and House Speaker Michael Madigan say the two Democratic leaders from Chicago are prepared to take a hard look at the issue when rank-and-file members return to action later this month.
"Cullerton supports efforts to increase the minimum wage and is willing to work with business and labor to find a way to achieve that goal," according to a statement issued Friday by his office.
Steve Brown, a spokesman for Madigan, said the House will be working "closely" with the Senate and Quinn on the issue.
"It's always a topic that is of great interest to Democrats because they understand that this isn't anymore an entry-level wage," Brown said Friday. "I'm sure there will be plenty of House Democrats willing to take a look at it."
Lawmakers last voted to phase in an increase in the minimum wage during 2006. That vote set in motion the state's move from the federal level of $7.25 per hour to the current state minimum wage of $8.25 an hour.
While Quinn supports a plan to raise the wage to $10 an hour, his Republican opponents spent the past week trading barbs over the issue after video emerged showing wealthy hedge fund manager Bruce Rauner saying he favors resetting Illinois' wage to the federal level.
By Thursday, the political newcomer was calling his stance a "mistake" and saying that he now believes it should be raised.
Sen. Kirk Dillard, R-Hinsdale, chided Rauner for flip-flopping, but Dillard himself voted in favor of the 2006 increase. He says the economy was in better shape when he pushed his "yes" button at the time.
State Treasurer Dan Rutherford of Chenoa and Sen. Bill Brady of Bloomington both say they are against an increase in the minimum wage.
If action on the minimum wage does get underway in the legislature, it could begin first in the Senate.
Sen. Kimberly Lightford, D-Maywood, has championed a minimum-wage increase for several years. She has introduced legislation that would phase in an increase resulting in a $10-per-hour wage by June 2017. She also has backed a plan to tie the minimum wage to the rate of inflation.