CHICAGO – Gov. Pat Quinn tried Sunday to revive a push to raise Illinois’ minimum wage, a topic he’s bound to come back to as he seeks re-election next year.
The Chicago Democrat, who campaigned on the idea in 2010 and mentioned it in his State of the State address in February, told congregants at a Chicago church that raising the minimum wage from $8.25 to $10 is a way to provide fair wages.
“It’s a principle as old as the Bible to help those who work hard to not live in poverty,” he told congregants at Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church on the city’s South Side. Currently, a person earning minimum wage and working 40 hours a week makes roughly $16,000 a year.
However, a bill to raise the minimum wage hasn’t left committee and opponents have fought it hard.
Republicans and business groups say raising the minimum wage kills jobs. Both the Illinois Retail Merchants Association and the Illinois Chamber of Commerce have come out against proposed minimum wage increases.
Illinois last raised its minimum wage in 2010 under a series of incremental increases. The state has the highest minimum wage among Midwestern states, and pays $1 more than neighboring Iowa, Indiana and Wisconsin.
David Vite, president of the merchants association, said that artificially raising the rate will lead to fewer jobs. He said the state already has high taxes that make it an unfriendly climate for businesses and blamed Quinn for trotting out the issue as the campaign is heating up.
“We cannot sustain continuing to do things that make businesses in and around Illinois think poorly of the state,” he said.
Quinn told reporters Sunday that raising the wage will improve the economy and disagreed with claims that it would kill jobs.
The governor has been highlighting workers’ issues as he ramps up his re-election bid, and accepted his first official endorsement last week from a labor union.
On the campaign trail, he has portrayed himself as a fighter for everyday people – a means of differentiating himself from former White House chief of staff Bill Daley, who is, so far, his only Democratic challenger.
Daley also supports raising the minimum wage to $10, according to campaign spokesman Pete Giangreco.
“Families are getting squeezed,” he said. “They need help making ends meet.”
Four Republicans are also interested in running for governor: Venture capitalist Bruce Rauner, Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford and state Sens. Kirk Dillard and Bill Brady. Candidates can start circling petitions later this week.
During the 2010 gubernatorial campaign, Quinn accused GOP opponent Brady of trying to slash the minimum wage. Brady said he wanted to freeze the state’s minimum wage so the federal minimum wage, at $7.25, could catch up.
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