Illinois minimum wage could end up a ballot question
SPRINGFIELD -- House Democrats Tuesday moved to let voters weigh in on whether Illinois' minimum wage should be increased to $10 an hour, a ballot question that could double as a campaign boost.
The Illinois House's decision Tuesday to put the advisory question on the November ballot likely puts off state Democrats' efforts to raise the minimum wage, now $8.25 per hour, until after the election.
"It's clear we need to do more to reduce economic inequality," House Speaker Michael Madigan said.
The referendum is advisory and not binding. It asks about raising the minimum wage for people over age 18.
The proposal now moves to the Senate, where it could be debated in the coming weeks.
The move was approved by a 71-43 vote, with Democrats voting for it, and Republicans voting against it. State Rep. Tom Cross of Oswego, a candidate for Illinois treasurer, didn't vote.
Raising the minimum wage has been an issue Democrats have tried to push nationally, and Illinois party officials might see a ballot question as a way to drive their supporters to the polls. And Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn has used the issue to needle his opponent, Winnetka businessman Bruce Rauner, who in the primary race caused controversy by once saying he thought the minimum rate should go down.
State Rep. David Harris, an Arlington Heights Republican, said the decision is a big one lawmakers can make on their own. He pointed to the steady stream of ballot questions that have appeared on California ballots.
"Do we really want to become California?" he said.
Meanwhile, other Republican lawmakers Tuesday proposed allowing voters to sound off on whether lawmakers should extend the 2011 income tax hike past Jan. 1. The plan has not been debated.