The Senate, with a Democratic supermajority large enough to override any future gubernatorial veto, gave its approval on Thursday to a bill by state Sen. Kimberly Lightford, D-Maywood, that provides for an increase in the $8.25 an hour minimum wage that now exists in Illinois.
UNDER THE LIGHTFORD proposal, the minimum wage would increase to $9 this year, then go up another 50 cents per year each year through 2019. By the end of Rauner’s current term as governor, Illinois would have a minimum wage of $11 per hour.
That differs from the minimum wage proposal offered up by Rauner this week when he made his State of the State address. His plan would call for increases of a quarter per year through 2022 and would top off at $10 per hour.
I’m sure he’s going to argue that his rate is still significantly higher than the $7.25 minimum wage rate currently set by the federal government and that applies in surrounding states such as Indiana where local officials have taken no independent action of their own.
But for those people who are arguing that Chicago ought to have a minimum wage rate of around $13 per hour (it was about $3.50 per hour back when I was in high school and worked those kind of jobs so I could have some extra cash), Rauner’s minimum wage talk sounds like an insult!
THAT IS WHY I’m sure Democrats running the Illinois Senate were eager to pass their own idea so quickly after Rauner offered up his idea (which was an improvement from his political talk back during last year’s primary election cycle where he was completely opposed to any increase).
Rauner, a Republican whose wife supposedly has a strong Democratic voting record, used his State of the State to make many proposals and statements that were meant to make Dems squirm.
Or at the very least put them in their place and let them know a full-fledged GOPer is now in control of the executive branch of Illinois government.
So in that context, the Democratic Party response from their people in the Illinois Senate makes total sense – Dems are reminding Rauner that the executive branch is merely one part of state government. They are the legislative branch, and will have to be listened to.
THAT ULTIMATELY IS what will determine just how ugly the next four years will be for state government officials.
If Rauner tempers his Republican rhetoric on issues like “right to work” or anything meant to single out organized labor to realize he has a legitimate opposition to negotiate with, he’s going to find that people like Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel will be sympathetic.
They may even secretly find some of his ideas desirable (no one of sense mistakes Madigan or Emanuel for a liberal) and will appreciate Rauner’s willingness to be the “front man” for ideas that more liberal elements of the Democratic Party will abhor.
But if Rauner thinks he’s going to be the “CEO of Illinois government” who gets to bark orders at subordinates – who are then expected to blindly follow his lead and carry them out at risk of having their employment terminated – then he will find that Thursday’s state Senate action was merely the first of many.
HIS ADMINISTRATION MAY wind up setting records for the most measures it had overridden by the General Assembly!
One key to this particular issue is to keep Madigan and the Illinois House of Representatives in mind. House Democrats have not committed themselves to do anything with the minimum wage.
In fact, it was their opposition to do anything last year that prevented departing Gov. Pat Quinn from being able to claim a pay raise for minimum wage workers as his final government achievement. Thursday’s vote may be the end of public discussion on this issue until the two sides can actually reach agreement in the distant future.
Or it could turn out to be the first of many political obscene gestures the Legislature will direct at this governor if they think he’s getting “out of line” with the public’s desires.