Some Democratic state legislators are considering a non-binding referendum for the November ballot on the topic of a minimum wage increase in an effort to better gauge public support for the idea. The new plan comes as legislation to boost the state's minimum wage remains stuck in the legislature without enough votes to pass in both chambers.
Illinois Republicans are largely against a minimum wage increase, arguing that such a move would hurt businesses and jobs. Some Democrats, such as State Sen. John Sullivan (D-Rushville), have also voiced opposition to the measure due to its potential impact on employers.
State legislation that would gradually raise Illinois' current minimum wage of $8.25 to $10.65 by July, 1 2016 is currently awaiting a floor vote in the Senate. The bill, SB 68, sponsored by State Sen. Kimberly Lightford (D-Maywood), cleared the chamber's Executive Committee last month. Its companion bill in the House, HB 3718, sponsored by State Rep. Arthur Turner (D-Chicago), is pending in the Rules Committee.
Last week, House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) said the measure does not yet have the votes needed for its approval in the House, but added that, “Once we get to 60 (votes needed to pass), we’ll be prepared to call the bill."
Lightford told the Associated Press over the weekend that having an advisory minimum wage referendum appear on the ballot would be a "last resort."
"We just need 30 votes at the end at the day. That's what we seemingly don't have right now," Lightford told the news service.
Meanwhile, Gov. Pat Quinn, who is up for re-election this year "believes that 2014 is the year to get this done," his spokeswoman Brooke Anderson said in a statement to the Associated Press.
"We continue to work with legislators to raise Illinois' minimum wage. This is one of the governor's top priorities and he has consistently stated his goal to get it done this year. Building a majority is necessary to pass this legislation and we are working with key leaders, legislators and advocates on this."
The current legislative session ends May 31.