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updated: 11/20/2014 9:36 AM

Illinois Democrats get minimum wage hike moving

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SPRINGFIELD -- The Illinois Senate started advancing a plan Wednesday that would raise the state's minimum wage to $11 per hour by 2017, starting with an increase from $8.25 to $10 in July.

It would apply to workers age 18 and over.

In pushing the boost, supporters pointed to a statewide advisory ballot question that voters in Illinois approved just two weeks ago. It asked if the minimum wage should be raised to $10 per hour.

In suburban counties, voters supported the idea by about 60 percent or more, state Sen. Kim Lightford, a Maywood Democrat, said.

Lawmakers in the spring declined to vote on raising the minimum wage, and there's not much time left before newly elected lawmakers are sworn in early next year.

On Tuesday, Democrats in the Senate set up a floor vote by moving it through a committee on a 10-3 vote. The full Senate still has to approve, as does the Illinois House, where supporters might have a harder time.

From the suburbs, Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno of Lemont and Sen. Matt Murphy of Palatine voted against it. Democratic Sens. Terry Link of Waukegan and Don Harmon of Oak Park voted for it.

Some business leaders argue raising the minimum wage would make it harder to hire more workers and make it hard for Illinois to compete against neighboring states with lower minimum wages.

"This would end up taking it a dollar higher than the ballot initiative," Murphy said.

Supporters say employees should make a living wage.

"These are people who are not asking for a handout," Lightford said.

The minimum wage became a critical campaign point in the fall as Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn made the issue a key to his pitch to voters. But he lost, and lawmakers might try to race and enact an increase before Republican Bruce Rauner takes office early next year.

Rauner has said he'd favor raising the minimum wage if the move were paired with major business policy changes.

Radogno asked Lightford to wait for some of Rauner's ideas. But Lightford said those could be handled later.

"Without that, I'm not going to be able to support it," Radogno said.

The full Senate could vote as early as Thursday.

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