$15 minimum wage no windfall for Illinois workers

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Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker gives his opening remarks along with Illinois State Sen. Kimberly Lightford, D-Maywood, left, on Senate Bill 1, a bill sponsored by Lightford to raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025, after it passed the Illinois Senate during a press conference in the governor’s office at the Illinois state Capitol, Thursday, Feb. 7, 2019, in Springfield, Ill. (Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register via AP)

Nearly a quarter of workers in Illinois would see their pay almost double under a proposal nearing final approval in the Legislature, but inflation will take a huge bite by the time the state’s minimum wage reaches $15 an hour in 2025.

The statewide pay floor has remained at $8.25 since 2010, and new Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker made boosting it a central component of his successful campaign. The Senate last week approved a gradual hourly increase to $15 , and the House is poised to send the legislation to Pritzker to sign before he presents his first budget plan on Feb. 20.

Illinois will join Washington, D.C., and at least four other states with a $15-an-hour minimum by 2025 , an 82 percent spike in current base pay. But it may not be the momentous impact on low-wage workers that some supporters expected.

Using state labor and federal inflation statistics, The Associated Press projected that assuming the current inflation rate of 2.1 percent each year through 2025, $15 then will be worth the equivalent of $10.46 now. So instead of an 81 percent wage increase from $8.25 to $15, after inflation, low-wage workers will be taking home only 27 percent more than they are today.

“Given the business opposition, you’d think that the state was proposing to give away bags of money and shut down every burger joint along the border,” Robert Bruno, a labor professor at the University of Illinois, said after reviewing the AP’s numbers.

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