February 5, 2015 / 11:34 PM / in 3 years

Illinois Senate passes minimum wage hike plan

(Reuters) - The Democrat-controlled Illinois Senate passed on Thursday a bill to raise the state’s minimum wage to $9 per hour this year and to $11 by 2019, snubbing a slower wage hike plan floated a day earlier by the state’s new Republican governor.

Illinois’ current minimum wage is $8.25 and Governor Bruce Rauner proposed on Wednesday in his first state-of-the-state speech, raising it to $10 over the next seven years.

The Senate voted 35-18 to pass the bill, which now goes to the lower house, which is also controlled by Democrats but may not pass the bill so easily.

Wage growth has remained sluggish in the United States despite an improving economy, and income inequality has become a hot political topic. Nine states have increased their minimum wage since the beginning of the year as the U.S. Congress has not increased the federal minimum.

Illinois is one of 29 states with a higher minimum wage than the federal level of $7.25 per hour, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Washington also has a higher hourly minimum than the federal one, and higher than any state minimum at $9.50.

“The minimum wage should be a living wage. If you work full-time, you shouldn’t have to rely on government support to put food on your family’s table or a roof over your head,” said Assistant Majority Leader Kimberly Lightford, a Democrat state senator and the sponsor of the legislation in Illinois’ upper house.

Lightford criticized Rauner’s plan as too slow.

The Chicago City Council in December voted to gradually increase the minimum wage in the nation’s third largest city to $13 an hour by 2019. A number of other cities, from San Francisco, California, to Louisville, Kentucky, have also recently raised minimum wages.

Reporting by Fiona Ortiz; Editing by Sandra Maler

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