How would proposed min wage increase affect southern Illinois? Businesses, workers weigh in

CARBONDALE, IL — Imagine finding out you would be guaranteed to have your pay doubled over the next six years. Sounds good right? A bill in Illinois that is expected to pass would raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour over that time.

It was a busy lunch rush at Mary Lou’s Grill in Carbondale, but the potential minimum wage increase has owner Marilynn Martin worried about the future.

“You’ll see a lot of small businesses go out of business or leave Illinois,” said Martin.

The restaurant has been open since 1962. Over time, Martin has seen rising taxes and a drop in business. She said adding a higher minimum wage to that will create problems.

“If they raise the minimum wage to what they’re thinking, all it will do is raise prices on everything. I can’t afford to pay big bucks here, but the ones who are way above it already will never see another raise,” said Martin.

The current minimum wage in Illinois is $8.25 an hour. The plan would increase it to $9.25 on Jan. 1, 2020, then $10 on July 1. After that, the wage would increase by $1 each Jan. 1 until 2025.

Nick Peterson is a minimum wage worker. He said the boost would give him the opportunity to save more money and pay his bills. “I would love to make $15 an hour,” said Peterson.

But, he said he realizes it’s a complicated issue. “For me, it would be great. I just don’t know what it would do for Illinois as a whole,” said Peterson.

Martin understands that it sounds like a good idea, but she said she believes it’s not the answer. “Everyone deserves a fair wage, but have a minimum wage and bring them in at that. Then, once they’ve been at that job a certain period of time, then you say let’s evaluate your performance,” said Martin.

The bill passed the Illinois Senate with a vote of 39-18, and will now go before the House.