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Universities worry about minimum wage increase

Published: Friday, Feb. 21, 2014 11:44 p.m. CDT

SPRINGFIELD – Officials at Illinois’ public universities worry that a proposed increase in the state’s minimum wage could hurt their already tight budgets.

State Sen. Kim Lightford has sponsored a bill that would raise Illinois’ minimum wage from $8.25 an hour to $10, and Gov. Pat Quinn has made a an increase in the minimum hourly pay a key part of his re-election campaign.

But according to the Springfield bureau of Lee Enterprises newspapers, Southern Illinois University President Glen Poshard said that would cost the school $3.2 million a year in additional wages. And that comes at a time when the Illinois General Assembly could be considering cuts in money for higher education.

“We need an increase in funding in higher education,” Poshard told members of a House committee Thursday. “We don’t have any extra to run our university.”

Illinois State University officials said raising the minimum wage could cost their school about $1.6 mil lion. More than 4,000 student workers there currently earn the minimum wage.

And at Western Illinois University, the increase would cost the school more than $1 million a year, according to Matt Bierman, Western’s budget director.

Bierman said the university would have to raise tuition or cut student workers’ hours at a time when available financial aid is limited.

“The students need these dollars,” Bierman said.

Lightford is a Maywood Democrat. She said the current minimum wage just isn’t enough for people to live on.

“I just think it is important that we have a sustainable living wage in the state of Illinois,” Lightford said.

But Lightford said she was still at least two votes short of what she needed to move the legislation out of the Senate.

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Information from: The Pantagraph, http://www.pantagraph.com

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