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Pritzker signs bill to increase minimum hourly wage to $15 by 2025

Gov. J.B. Pritzker, left, and Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton on the House floor Thursday

Gov. J.B. Pritzker, left, and Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton, right, are acknowledged on the House floor at the Illinois State Capitol, Thursday, the day the Illinois House approved an increase in the state minimum wage. | Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register, distributed by the Associated Press

Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Tuesday signed into a law a hike to the state’s minimum wage — climbing to $15 by 2025 — as Democrats delivered the new governor a big win ahead of his first budget address.

Pritzker had campaigned on the promise, and Democrats in the Illinois House and Senate moved quickly to pass the measure last week, despite massive opposition from most business groups and Republican lawmakers.

In signing the measure at the Governor’s mansion in Springfield, surrounded by Democrats and union leaders, Pritzker called it “a victory for the cause of economic justice.”

“Today, we’re making it clear that if you work hard in this state, you deserve to be able to afford the goods and services that you produce,” Pritzker said.

Pritzker will deliver a joint State of the State and budget address in Springfield, his first, on Wednesday. The governor told the Sun-Times he had placed provisions in his budget plan to help pay for a bump in the minimum wage, which includes a tax credit to help small businesses. He’ll also have to account for the state having to pay a higher wage to some state agency workers, public university employees and for social service providers.

Under the new law, the statewide minimum wage rate will rise from $8.25 per hour to $9.25 on Jan. 1. It will increase to $10 in July 2020, then increase by $1 per hour each year until it hits $15 in 2025. While the state’s minimum wage hasn’t changed from $8.25 since 2010, Chicago has since increased its minimum wage to $12, while Cook County’s is $11 an hour. Both Chicago and Cook County’s wage will increase by $1 per hour on July 1.

A beaming Pritzker took to the Illinois House floor last week after lawmakers voted 69-47 to clear the measure. No Republicans voted to approve it. During debate, lawmakers argued over whether Chicago and the surrounding suburbs should have an even higher minimum wage. And business associations had pushed for more time to clear the change, arguing it will prompt layoffs, higher prices for consumers and the possibility that jobs will be moved out of state.

Although legislators have pushed for the hike for years, having a Democratic governor once again definitely accelerated the plan, as did the support of the Illinois Restaurant Association. Former Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed a similar measure last year.

The speed of the passage prompted many Republicans to criticize Pritzker for what they called a lack of bipartisanship.

Pritzker will now be able to check off a hefty item from his promise list. In his inauguration speech last month, he mentioned many of his priorities, including raising the minimum wage to $15, attracting jobs and businesses to the state, legalizing recreational marijuana and improving the criminal justice system.

Pritzker, who has never held elected office, said then that he wouldn’t be “naive” about what it will take to balance a budget. But he offered a warning: “If you lead with partisanship and scare tactics you will be met with considerable political will.”

The Illinois Republican Party on Tuesday called the minimum wage signing “only the beginning of J.B. Pritzker’s war on taxpayers and small business.”

“Nearly doubling the minimum wage will destroy entry-level jobs, raise prices for consumers, and bust budgets at every level of government,” chairman Tim Schneider said in a statement. “Pritzker pledged to govern differently and listen to all parties and stakeholders, but those turned out to [be] meaningless words.”