Press Release - Monday, December 18, 2006
Governor Blagojevich signs groundbreaking legislation to increase minimum wage in Illinois
CHICAGO - Delivering on his promise to improve the quality of life for thousands of Illinois' hard working families, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich was today joined by Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, Illinois Senate President Emil Jones, U.S. Congressman Danny Davis and other legislators, labor leaders and workers to sign Senate Bill 1268, increasing the minimum wage to $7.50 per hour in July 2007 and to $8.25 an hour by 2010. Senate Bill 1268, co-sponsored by State Representatives Marlow Colvin (D-Chicago) and Larry McKeon (D-Chicago), and State Senator Kimberly Lightford (D-Maywood) will help 647,000 workers in Illinois.
"One of the best things we can do as state government is to help make sure people who work hard all day, make enough to live on. Thousands of hard working Illinoisans benefited when the minimum wage went up to $6.50 an hour. But it's not enough anymore. Raising the minimum wage again will make it a little easier for thousands of families to pay the bills, put food on the table or buy clothes for their children. For people like Diane Elliot of Jacksonville, it means she can afford the constant cost of living increases," said Gov. Blagojevich as he signed the bill during at event at the Bethel New Life center on Chicago's West side.
"A minimum-wage increase was my top priority in the fall session of the Illinois General Assembly," said Mayor Daley. "Low-income working families are among the people who deserve our support the most, and I think every caring person would agree they're entitled to a raise. I want to thank all the people and organizations who worked so hard on this legislation. I thank the legislators who voted for it, and Governor Blagojevich for signing it," said Mayor Daley.
"The people of Illinois need and deserve to earn wages that are comparable to the hard work they do every day. This bill is just one more step in helping make life a little bit easier for Illinoisans," said Senate President Emil Jones (D-Chicago).
"The cost of raising a family increases all the time, but minimum wage earners haven't seen an increase since 2004. As prices increase, it becomes harder and harder to pay the most basic expenses on a minimum wage salary. I applaud the Governor for his commitment to the people of Illinois and am so proud to be the sponsor of this bill," said Senate bill sponsor Kimberly A. Lightford (D-Maywood).
"Raising the minimum wage is the right thing to do for our state. The Governor signing this bill into law will allow working families in Illinois to keep up with cost of living increases. I am glad the Governor and the General Assembly worked to together to make this possible to help the hard working people of Illinois," said Rep. Colvin, Sponsor of the legislation.
This marks the second time during his administration that Gov. Blagojevich fought for and signed legislation raising the minimum wage. He first increased the wage in 2003 above the federal level of $5.15 an hour to $6.50 an hour (the federal minimum wage remains at $5.15, where it has been stagnant since 1997). When the final rate of $8.25 per hour takes effect in 2010 that will mean Gov. Blagojevich has helped boost pay for minimum wage workers in Illinois by $3.10 per hour, or 60 percent. This makes Illinois a national leader in wages for workers.
"I'm so glad the Governor's raising the minimum wage. I feel like he, more than anyone else, understands that we need this raise. I'm getting minimum wage. I work two jobs. I live by myself. I pay my bills myself. But, I know I'm not the only one. There are so many people working two jobs just to pay the bills. My doctor tells me to slow down, but I just can't. This increase will be a big help for me," said Diane Elliot, a minimum wage worker in a Jacksonville nursing home.
Despite predictions from opponents of the minimum wage that its increase would harm the economy, since the Governor's first minimum wage hike went into effect in January 2004, Illinois has added more than 152,000 new jobs, which is more than any state in the Midwest according to the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Illinois has led the nation in job growth twice this year (April and July), which has never happened before in recorded history, and has been named the third best state in the nation for attracting new and expanded corporate facilities by Site Selection Magazine. Inc. Magazine recently named Gov. Blagojevich as the second best Governor in the nation for fiscal policy (Blagojevich was also named the top governor for health care policy). In addition, the unemployment rate has fallen from 6.7 percent in January 2003, when the fight for the higher minimum wage began, to 4.1 percent today, which is the state's lowest level on record.