Illinois Governor Vetoes Minimum Wage Bills

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By Michael J. Bologna

July 25 — Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) vetoed bills driven by organized labor, including a measure to strengthen prevailing wage standards and three bills designed to boost base wages for child care providers and home health workers serving the elderly and disabled.

While Rauner's criticism of organized labor and minimum wage standards has been a consistent theme throughout his administration, the first-term governor pointed to the ongoing fiscal crisis in Illinois as a basis for his vetoes July 22.

“At a time of unprecedented financial difficulty in the State of Illinois, this is [an] unaffordable piece of legislation that will create an even greater financial hole for the state and will ultimately result in cuts to—and elimination of—other important state programs,” Rauner said in a veto message voiding a bill dealing with wages paid to home health workers.

Michael Carrigan, president of the Illinois AFL-CIO, charged that Rauner was much more interested in his personal political agenda than the well-being of working families. In vetoing the four measures, the governor was acting on “his mission of eroding the middle class in Illinois by making it as difficult as possible to increase the wages of working families,” Carrigan said.

Four Bills Vetoed

Rauner took action on four bills passed by the Democrat-controlled state legislature:

  •  Vetoed House Bill 5764, which amends the Illinois Act on Aging. The bill requires wage increases for the 35,000 homemaker services workers employed by state vendors operating under the Community Care Program. It requires minimum wages of $19.23 beginning on July 1, 2016, $21.32 beginning on July 1, 2017, $23.41 beginning on July 1, 2018, and $25.08 beginning on July 1, 2019. A fiscal note developed for the legislature said the measure would have cost the state $1.1 billion over four years.
  •  Vetoed Senate Bill 2931, boosting wages for personal assistants and individual maintenance home health workers. The rate would have moved from $13 to $15 per hour on July 1, 2016. The bill also requires higher state contributions to a union-sponsored health-care plan for the affected workers. Rauner said the measure would have cost taxpayers nearly $87 million annually.
  •  Vetoed Senate Bill 2536, which requires the Department of Human Services to provide mandatory annual trainings on health and safety for certain providers in the child care assistance program. The bill also specifies that providers be paid $15 per hour for their attendance. Rauner said the measure would have cost the state $36 million per year.
  •  Amendatorily vetoed Senate Bill 2964, modifying the Prevailing Wage Act. The bill provides that the prevailing wage shall be set at the rate that prevails for similar work performed under collective bargaining agreements in the locality. In localities where agreements do not exist, the Department of Labor would have been charged with establishing the prevailing wage rate. Rauner's revisions prohibit wage rates linked to collective bargaining agreements in the locality and empower the public bodies awarding the contracts to ascertain the appropriate prevailing wage.

It was not immediately clear how the Illinois General Assembly would respond to Rauner's actions. The three bills dealing with minimum wages and training for child care and home health aids passed by wide margins, but not veto-proof majorities. S.B. 2964 governing prevailing wages received several Republican votes, moving the bill into veto-proof territory.

Prevailing Wage

Rauner's amendatory veto of S.B. 2964 won applause from the business community.

The Illinois Chamber of Commerce said the bill would have “eliminated the voice of local government” in determining local wage rates.

“That would have led to inflated costs for local public works projects and to a damper on local economies,” the chamber said in a statement. “The business community wants laws and policies that help Illinois become more attractive to the creation and retention of jobs in our state. Increasing project costs and the resulting increases in property taxes would not be good for the job climate.”

SEIU Healthcare Illinois criticized Rauner for declining to pay a living wage to thousands of child care and home health workers. The union had been pushing the wage bills as part of its “Invest in Illinois” legislative package.

“With the vetoes of legislation protecting child care and home health care for people with disabilities and seniors, Gov. Rauner continues the Republican war on working women, African-Americans and Latinos who depend on these programs to be in the workforce,” Keith Kelleher, president of SEIU Healthcare Illinois, said in a statement. “Rauner also is forcing seniors and people with disabilities into more expensive institutionalization.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Michael J. Bologna in Chicago at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Susan J. McGolrick at

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