Minimum Wage Bill Passes Senate Along Party Lines

Despite concerns by suburban and downstate legislators in particular over the impact on the state budget (over $1 billion) and the impact on suburban and downstate employers, the Senate passed a proposal to increase the Illinois starting wage to $15 over 5 years as contained in Senate Amendment #1 to Senate Bill 1 (Sen Kimberly Lightford, D- Westchester). The 39-18 vote was along strictly partisan lines and came only after Governor JB Pritzker spent 30-minutes in the Senate Democratic caucus imploring a united front for his first major policy initiative. This action comes despite two very reasonable alternatives put forward by IRMA under the belief that an increase is inevitable, everyone was genuine in their desire to turn the page on the last four-years and seek genuine compromise, and the two alternatives IRMA put forward were supported in those respective states by the same proponents who are pushing the $15 wage increase in Illinois.

IRMA first suggested following the Oregon model where a different wage would be paid in different parts of the state. For example, $15 would be paid in Chicago, a lower wage in the collar counties, and a yet lower wage downstate. The Oregon model makes the most sense for a state as economically and geographically diverse as Illinois in that no other location in Illinois enjoys the economic benefits of Chicago. Nowhere else has over 55 million tourists per year, nowhere else has millions commuting into the city center every day spending money, nowhere else has the concentration of business headquarters, and nowhere else has the concentration of wealth. However, several legislators and the Governor’s Office expressed reservations over voting for $15 for some parts of the state but not others.

As an alternative, IRMA put forward the New York model. New York increased the starting wage in New York City over 4 years. The starting wage in the two counties on Long Island and Westchester County were increased to $15 over 6 years, and the starting wage in the rest of New York over 10-12 years (increased by CPI until reaches 15). While less sensitive to the economic diversity of New York and Illinois, it is an apt example for Illinois. The city of Chicago began increasing its minimum wage in 2015. If SB 1 is enacted as is, employers in the city of Chicago will have been given 10 years to get to $15 per hour. Employers in the suburbs and downstate will only be given 5 years. It raises the question as to why suburban and downstate employers are not being given the same consideration as employers in the city of Chicago. For those who say ‘well, the city raised the wage on its own, the answer is proponents don’t get it both ways. They can’t oppose preemption and then not count the actions of the city of Chicago. Employers don’t get that luxury.

Claims that alternatives were never presented are simply false. These alternatives were provided to the Governor directly the evening of Tuesday, January 29th, the primary legislative sponsors and the proponents during a morning meeting on Thursday, January 31st, repeated during another meeting the morning of Tuesday, February 5th and shared with other legislators and legislative staff throughout the week. Clearly, given the facts noted above, there does not appear to be a genuine desire for what would otherwise be considered an easily achievable compromise.

The proponents claim that a tax credit inserted into the bill will help small business. In fact, the tax credit as proposed is inadequate to soften the size and pace of the proposed increase and applies to very few employers. The following would NOT receive the credit:

  • Any employer with more than 50 full-time equivalent employees. The legislation does not state what constitutes ‘full-time” so it is impossible to accurately calculate. However, given the fact the proposal started with a firm cap at 50, we can expect a definition that keeps close to that number.
  • If you are a franchisee and have more than one store OR file as part of a unitary group (e.g. you are a franchisee, run some other type of business and they file taxes together) you would not be eligible for the tax credit.
  • If your average wages paid are less than the same quarter the year before, you are not eligible for the credit. For example, if you are forced to cut hours worked, lay off workers, or if workers are absent, your average wages could easily drop.
  • Employers with 5 or fewer employees are eligible for a credit for a year longer than everyone else. While the proponents claim this applies to 48% of all employers, they don’t tell you that the vast majority of that 48% is comprised of employers where the only employee is the employer. According to the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES), in the City of Chicago, such businesses account for 6.6% of employers. According to the US Small Business Administration, 80% of all employers fall into this category. Therefore, 1.4% – 2.0% of employers in Illinois would qualify.

Clearly, the tax credit is nothing more than a talking point.

As passed by the Senate, SB 1 increases the starting wage as follows:

18 years and older

Under 18 years of age*

YEAR

WAGE

YEAR

WAGE

1/1/2020

$9.25

1/1/2020

$8.00

7/1/2020

$10.00

7/1/2020

1/1/2021

$11.00

$8.50

1/1/2022

$12.00

$9.25

1/1/2023

$13.00

$10.50

1/1/2024

$14.00

$12.00

1/1/2025

$15.00

$13.00

 

*If the employee who is under 18 years of age works more than 650 hours for the employer during a calendar year, then the employer must pay the full minimum wage regardless of the employee’s age.

While it looks like a six-year phase-in, it is really a five-year phase in because employers will experience a $2.75 per hour increase (33.3% increase) in the first 366-days. For an employer’s planning purposes, a year-and-one-day, is not two years. This phase-in is an average annual increase to an employer’s largest or second-largest line-item of over 16% per year for a total increase of 81.8% over 5 years.

The House Labor & Commerce Committee is scheduled to consider SB 1 on Wednesday, February 13th at 2:00 p.m.

IRMA members should register their opposition by filing a slip at this link. Additionally, IRMA members are encouraged to continue to register their opposition per the action alerts IRMA has distributed.

 

 

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