Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed a bill Friday that would have raised the minimum wage to $15 an hour for workers who assist people with developmental disabilities.
Specifically, the legislation sought to raise the hourly minimum wage to $15 for the roughly 34,000 direct support personnel (DSP) workers in Illinois. Currently, their average hourly wage is $9.35, according to the Ray Graham Association for people with disabilities.
The agency said it was "extremely disappointed" by the governor's veto.
The legislation was needed to modernize reimbursement rates so agencies could pay a "living wage" to attract and retain DSPs, proponents said.
The DSP workforce is in "crisis," said Ray Graham Association CEO Kim Zoeller. The staffing shortage resulted in a federal monitor finding Illinois to be noncompliant with the "federal Ligas consent decree that ensures access to appropriate services," Zoeller noted.
"Our service system is crumbling," added Art Dykstra, CEO of the disability service provider Trinity Services. "We are getting to the point where we will have to ask families to consider taking their loved ones home on weekends because we can't adequately staff the houses."
The governor vetoed the bill over cost concerns.
Here is Rauner's veto message:
Today I return House Bill 5931, which would require an immediate 40% increase in taxpayer-funded wages for certain professionals, but without providing any funding.
We should first acknowledge the difficult and important work of these professionals, who assist persons with intellectual and development disabilities in residential and day programs. Many of these professionals have not had a wage increase in years. I am open to finding a responsible way to increase wages for these professionals, but unfortunately this bill is not the answer.
The national average hourly wage for these workers is $10.71, in line with current Illinois wages. House Bill 5931 would immediately increase the Illinois wage to $15.00 per hour, significantly above the national average. The bill would increase the cost of caring for people with development disabilities by $330 million per year, of which Illinois taxpayers would be required to pay at least half. The bill does not provide any mechanism for funding this additional cost.
We should work together to pass a balanced budget. In that context, we can examine savings, program changes, or funding sources that could enable us to better use taxpayer dollars for this and other priorities. Through such a process, we can find the appropriate and affordable way to fund an increase in wages. But until then, it would be fiscally irresponsible to commit the State to significant payments for which it has no available funding.
Therefore, pursuant to Section 9(b) of Article IV of the Illinois Constitution of 1970, I hereby return House Bill 5931, entitled "AN ACT concerning State government", with the foregoing objections, vetoed in its entirety.