SPRINGFIELD | A coalition of business groups say Illinois employers cannot afford another increase in the minimum wage.
Against the backdrop of minimum wage-related mudslinging in the Republican race for governor and the possibility Democrats could push a boost in the minimum wage through the General Assembly this spring, the 18 organizations said an increase to $10 an hour is "far too drastic."
"Illinois already has a minimum wage higher than all of our neighboring states and we are tied for the sixth highest minimum wage in the country. If Illinois were to pass a $10 minimum wage, that amount would almost double the rate since only 2003," the coalition said in a statement issued Tuesday.
A debate over raising the minimum wage has dominated the early stages of the GOP campaign for governor. Political newcomer Bruce Rauner, a wealthy venture capitalist, initially called for Illinois' rate to be lowered to match the federal minimum wage. Last week he reversed his position, generating catcalls from his opponents.
The trio — Treasurer Dan Rutherford and state Sens. Bill Brady and Kirk Dillard — say they do not support an increase.
Rutherford also doesn't want the rate to be lowered.
"Lowering the minimum wage in Illinois is a bad idea. Doing so would place an unfair burden on workers. I will never be a fan of taking money from peoples' wallets, and that's what lowering the minimum wage would do," Rutherford said in a statement.
Gov. Pat Quinn, a Democrat, meanwhile, has made raising the minimum wage to $10 an hour a major plank in his campaign and wants lawmakers to approve the increase this spring. Democrats who control the Legislature have indicated it could be debated when the General Assembly returns later this month.
Illinois' current rate of $8.25 went into effect in 2010. The federal rate is $7.25 an hour.
According to the business groups, another increase will make hiring entry-level workers more difficult for businesses, leading to more unemployment among younger workers.
"The result is a significant number of young people are not gaining the basic and valuable work experience to propel them up the economic ladder in the future," their statement notes.
Along with lobbying groups like the Illinois Retail Merchants Association, the Illinois Manufacturers Association and the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, the coalition includes the Illinois Farm Bureau, Six Flags Great America and the National Federation of Independent Business.