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Pritzker sets six-month deadline for minimum wage increase

Governor-elect J.B. Pritzker announces the leadership for his Job Creation and Economic Opportunity Committee. Members include Suzet McKinney (left, behind Pritzker), Omar Duque and Laura Frerichs | Chicago Sun-Times/Alex Arriaga

Governor-elect J.B. Pritzker said Monday he still plans to raise the minimum wage within his first six months in office — but he stopped short of saying just how much it should increase.

“We’re trying to make sure we implement a raise in the minimum wage while also making sure our small businesses are not ill-affected by it,” Pritzker said at a press conference at 1871, the tech startup incubator he founded, at the Merchandise Mart in River North.

Pritzker, who also announced the appointment of a jobs creation committee as part of his transition team, said he planned to meet with labor unions, retail merchants and entrepreneurs to discuss how much to raise the minimum wage and to ensure that “large businesses are implementing it in as rapid a fashion as we can make happen.”

During the campaign, Pritzker said the minimum wage should be raised to $15 an hour, which is nearly twice what it is now, $8.25 an hour, and above the minimum wage in Chicago, which jumped to $12 an hour this year. Last year, legislation that would have raised the wage to $15 was vetoed by Gov. Bruce Rauner.

On Tuesday, a spokeswoman for Pritzker’s campaign clarified he is committed to advocating during his first session to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

Pritzker was also asked about another one of his campaign goals — establishing a graduated income tax, which would require amending the state’s constitution. Throughout the campaign, he avoiding giving details of this plan, including what the income tax rates would be for various income levels — a point often targeted by Rauner.

“There was, of course, in the heat of the campaign misunderstandings about what a progressive or graduated income tax really does for the state,” Pritzker said. Still, he did not provide any more specifics Monday.

Pritzker declined to make endorsements in the Chicago mayoral race when asked which of the 21 candidates would best be suited to lead business growth in the city, but he did take an apparent jab at Rauner.

“Unlike maybe past governors, I intend to work with whoever the mayor of the city of Chicago is,” Pritzker said.

The governor-elect did announce the team that will lead the Job Creation and Economic Opportunity Committee. The co-chairs are Suzet McKinney, CEO of the Illinois Medical District; University of Illinois EnterpriseWorks Director Laura Frerichs; Omar Duque, former president of the Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; and Chicago Federation of Labor President Bob Reiter.

The committee members emphasized that there are opportunities for job creation in the fields of health and medicine, especially through public universities and through tech startups such as 1871. The committee will have its first meeting next Monday.

“Let’s realize that we can be pro-labor and pro-business and that every stakeholder has a seat at the table,” Pritzker said.

Pritzker is scheduled to appear with Rauner at a celebration of the Illinois bicentennial Monday evening.

Pritzker said he plans to “highlight the fact that we’ll have new leadership for a new century and that we have great days ahead” and said he plans to serve as the state’s “chief marketing officer.”