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Madigan minimum-wage hike referendum passes House, goes to Senate

SPRINGFIELD-Voters would be asked in November to weigh in on raising the state’s minimum wage to $10 an hour under legislation drafted by House Speaker Michael Madigan and backed Tuesday by the Illinois House.

His measure, which passed the House 71-43 and now moves to the Senate, would place an advisory referendum on the Nov. 4 ballot asking whether to raise the $8.25-an-hour minimum wage to $10 an hour on Jan. 1.

“There’s just no way to support a family on a minimum wage of $8.25 an hour,” Madigan, D-Chicago, told colleagues. “So we need to do more to help put struggling families on a path to a living wage.”

Gov. Pat Quinn, who has pushed a minimum-wage hike, praised Tuesday’s outcome in the House.

“Democracy is about having a voice,” he said in a prepared statement. “I’m glad that voters will have a chance to make their voices heard on this important issue that will benefit hundreds of thousands of working people across Illinois.”

Four Republicans supported Madigan’s bill: Rep. John Anthony, R-Plainfield; Rep. John Cabello, R-Machesney Park; Rep. C.D. Davidsmeyer, R-Jacksonville; and Rep. Michael McAuliffe, R-Chicago.

Democrats who bucked Madigan included Rep. Carol Sente, D-Vernon Hills; Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo; and Rep. Jerry Costello II, D-Smithton.

Madigan has said he didn’t have the votes to outright pass the minimum-wage hike this spring and that a decisive show of support from voters could get the issue over the goal line during a possible January lame-duck session.

But Republicans have characterized the move as a measure designed to drive voter turnout from Democratically-aligned low-income workers in what promises to be a tight re-election fight by Gov. Pat Quinn.

During Tuesday’s floor debate, Madigan was met with criticism from some in the GOP, who said raising the minimum wage is an issue legislators were elected to tackle and that the state shouldn’t be governed by the dictates of referenda.

“These kinds of issues are for us to decide,” said Rep. David Harris, R-Arlington Heights, who voted against Madigan’s bill. “We don’t have the referendum process like they do in California or Colorado here in Illinois. We, the Legislature, are supposed to decide…public-policy issues.”

But fellow Republican McAuliffe staked out a different view in justifying his vote alongside Madigan.

“I voted for the minimum wage before when it was up a couple of years ago,” said McAuliffe, who represents parts of the northwest side and adjoining suburbs. “There’s a lot of people that are unemployed- young and also a lot of seniors. When they go into the job market, sometimes they’re denied good-paying jobs, and all they have, the only jobs that are available, are the ones at minimum wage. A lot of seniors are still trying to make ends meet and for me I feel it’s a good fit for them.”