Quinn Seeks to Combat Poverty with Minimum Wage Hike
By Amanda Vinicky
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn wants to raise the state’s minimum wage. His support comes as new census data shows more Illinois residents are living in poverty.
Illinois saw 150,000 more people slide into poverty last year, for a total of about 1.9 million of the state’s nearly 13 million residents.
Gov. Quinn said raising the state’s minimum wage would help turn those figures around.
"The minimum wage is set up to fight poverty,” he said. “There are families in Illinois who are working 40 hours a week and still living in poverty. That to me defies the Biblical principle that if you work hard, you should not live in poverty.”
Quinn said Illinois should take into account cost of living adjustments, like by tying the minimum wage to inflation.
Illinois companies must pay workers at least $8.25 an hour. That’s a dollar more than the federal minimum.
Businesses groups say raising Illinois’ minimum wage will make the state less competitive. Small business owners say it’ll force them to lay off workers because they cannot afford bigger paychecks.
Meanwhile, Quinn takes off Sunday for a six-day trip to Brazil to develop new markets for Illinois. He said Brazil is Illinois’ fifth leading customer:
“We have a tremendous explosion in exports from our companies in Illinois, and our agriculture in Illinois, to Brazil,” Quinn said.
He said he wants to expand on those opportunities. He is leading a group of about 30 people, including executives from United Airlines, Motorola, Tate & Lyle, and even a vice president of Garrett Brands, makers of Chicago’s famously addictive cheese and caramel popcorn.
A University of Illinois trustee and other college administrators will be there too, to entice exchange students to study in Illinois.
Quinn is also aiming to lure Brazilian tourists to Chicago.
“Brazilian tourists are growing by leaps and bounds but they haven’t been coming to the state of Illinois," he said. "They’ve been going places like Miami or others. We want to get them a little bit North and see the heartland of America.”
The governor’s spokeswoman said Quinn is paying his own way for the trip. The state’s picking up the tab for the director of the state’s commerce department, David Vaught, and two aides, including Quinn’s chief of staff.
During his tenure as governor, Quinn has been around the globe on official trade missions. He has also visited Canada, Spain and Belgium.