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Paul Rumler, new CEO of Q-C Chamber

Paul Rumler, new CEO of Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce. 

After surveying Illinois business partners, the Quad-Cities Chamber of Commerce is opposing a plan to raise the state's minimum wage to $15 per hour over several years.

Some Democratic lawmakers have proposed nearly doubling Illinois' minimum wage — from $8.25 to $15 per hour — arguing it would lift workers out of poverty. New Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker campaigned on the issue last fall, gaining support from some labor organizations.

While details are still being debated, lawmakers have said Pritzker wants to sign the proposal into law before he delivers his first budget proposal later this month. With Illinois lawmakers back at the Capitol on Tuesday, the bill could be heard in a Senate committee this week. 

Last week, the Quad-Cities Chamber surveyed 140 Illinois business members to see how a minimum wage increase may affect the regional economy, said Tyler Power, manager of government affairs. He said 86 percent of businesses said there would be negative impacts if the bill passed. In the same survey, 82 percent opposed raising the minimum wage to $15. 

“We’re working to tell that story: That the impact of this could be very detrimental, not only to the Illinois economy, but our economy as a whole,” Power said. “That’s why we’re so strongly opposing this as it stands now. We stand ready to work with elected officials to achieve a desirable outcome.”

The leader of the bi-state chamber, president and CEO Paul Rumler said raising Illinois' statewide minimum wage would hurt regions like the Quad-Cities that share state borders. He argued Illinois businesses could be enticed to move to the Iowa side to avoid high payroll costs. Employees in Iowa — where the minimum wage remains at $7.25 — may cross state lines to earn higher wages.

“There are very few areas throughout the state that would feel the impact of this like we would because we’re a bi-state region,” Power said. “It’s going to have a huge impact on the Iowa side. We could see businesses close Illinois locations and move directly to Iowa. Or they could move outside of the entire region and take those jobs and revenue with them due to the disparity of minimum wage between the two states.”

Rumler argued the "shift of corporate income, property and sales tax dollars could undercut the Illinois Quad-Cities economy." 

"As the regional business voice serving the entire bi-state Quad-Cities region, the Chamber is committed to working with our local elected officials and leaders across the state to finding a solution that is equitable for both businesses and the workforce they employ — without forever changing the underpinnings of our regional economy," Rumler said in a news release.

Illinois' minimum wage has been $8.25 since 2010. Former Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed a bill in 2017 that would have raised the statewide wage to $15 over five years.

State Sen. Kimberly Lightford, a Maywood Democrat, may introduce her new proposal as early as Tuesday. Several specifics remain up for debate, including how many years it would take to raise Illinois' wage to $15 and how to help small businesses deal with rising payroll costs.

Some business advocates are urging legislators to consider raising the minimum wage using a tiered approach based on geography, citing cost-of-living differences between urban and rural areas. 

Chicago and Cook County have already approved wage increases. Chicago's wage of $12 per hour will increase by $1 this summer. Cook County's minimum wage will jump to $12 in July. 

New York and Oregon recently have approved raising statewide minimum wages based on geography. 

“The (geographically-based approach) could be an option,” Power said. “Obviously we’re always open to working with elected officials, not only locally but also statewide, to come to an agreement on how to grow the economy. We’re open to any ways to dampen the impact raising the wage is going to have on our small and medium-sized businesses here in the region.”

In the survey, Power said fewer Illinois business owners — around 60 percent — opposed a tiered approach to raising the minimum wage. Members also were asked how many of their employees earn minimum wage, plus what wage would require the businesses to stop hiring workers or lay off workers.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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