Illinois House Approves Minimum Wage Hike

Illinois' minimum wage is $8.25

The Illinois House has approved a proposal that would raise the state's minimum wage to $15 an hour over five years. 

House lawmakers voted 61 to 53 Tuesday. Democratic state Rep. Will Guzzardi of Chicago said the plan would help working people make ends meet. 

Illinois' minimum wage is $8.25. Under the plan, workers age 18 and over would see the wage jump in increments until 2022. The plan also includes a tax credit for businesses with 50 employees or fewer. 

Opponents, including retail groups, said raising the wage hurts businesses. 

Republican state Rep. Keith Wheeler of Oswego said the plan will make Illinois more uncompetitive. 

It's unclear whether Gov. Bruce Rauner will sign the bill. The Republican has said he'd support a minimum wage increase in conjunction with other regulatory changes.

All eyes are on the Illinois House as it considers how to handle a $37 billion spending proposal with two days left in the General Assembly's spring session. 

The Democratic-controlled House has several options Tuesday. Democrats advanced late Monday a plan to raise income and sales taxes by more than $5 billion to deal with a mountainous deficit.

But party leaders also said they're considering other options. Committee hearings are scheduled to consider legislation that will only have substantive language added to it shortly before public airing.

The state has been without a budget for two years. Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner wants changes to streamline government, boost the business climate and freeze property taxes in exchange for a budget. Democrats say that debate should follow a budget.

Democratic Senate President John Cullerton pushed two property-tax freezes measures through the Senate Tuesday. One would freeze property tax levies for school districts. But they'd be able to seek a waiver from the Illinois State Board of Education. The other would freeze taxes for other government bodies with exemptions to allow them to pay down debt and make contributions to employees' pensions.

Rauner has insisted on a freeze on local property taxes for more than two years. Illinois has among the nation's higher rates. 

Rauner has demanded a permanent freeze. Democrats say that would cripple local governments. Cullerton says senators could adopt a new freeze if a two-year freeze works.

The measures moved to the House. 

Rauner's spokeswoman called the plan a "phony two-year freeze."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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