Despite Rauner’s plea, some lawmakers seek minimum wage hike now

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SPRINGFIELD — Bruce Rauner won’t be governor until January.

But as Democrats begin one final push in Springfield to raise the minimum wage before Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn leaves office, the influence of his incoming Republican successor can already be felt.

As the Legislature reconvened Wednesday, Sen. Kimberly Lightford announced her plan to “fulfill the terms of the ballot question” approved overwhelmingly by voters in Republican and Democratic districts alike. Earlier this month, 67 percent of Illinois’ voters approved a non-binding resolution that said the hourly wage should go up to $10 by Jan. 1.

Lightford, D-Maywood, said she filed legislation to raise the minimum wage to $10 by July 1.

Her proposal easily cleared a Senate committee Wednesday afternoon. But not before Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno pointed out, “we do have a new governor.”

“And I know that one of the new governor’s proposals is that we look at minimum wage in conjunction with some other things that might help businesses create more jobs,” said Radogno, R-Lemont.

To do otherwise is a deal-breaker for her, Radogno said, because it could cost jobs.

Lightford’s proposal would not only bump the minimum hourly wage for adults to $10 by July 1, it would continue to increase the wage to $10.50 in July, 2016 and $11 in July, 2017.

Quinn commended Lightford in a written statement.

“Raising the wage is about dignity and decency and building an economy that works for everyone,” Quinn said. “Now is the time to get this important legislation passed through the General Assembly for the hundreds of thousands of minimum wage workers across the Land of Lincoln.”

Lightford said she didn’t seek to hike the wage by next January because that would require a super-majority vote of 36 senators, but she believes support exists for her plan in the Senate. It could see a vote on the Senate floor as soon as Thursday.

Still, she heard Wednesday from Republican opponents who said raising the minimum wage would leave some people out on the street.

“Some people are going to get hurt by this,” Sen. Matt Murphy, R-Palatine, said. “Again, I think more than helped.”

And then there’s Rauner, who in the days after his election said it would be “very inappropriate” for lawmakers to tackle any weighty issues before he takes office.

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