Oberweis pushes 26-and-older minimum wage hike

State Sen. Jim Oberweis, R-Sugar Grove, still hopes to convince Democrats that his proposed minimum-wage increase is the better option for Illinois.

Oberweis’ plan, only for those age 26 and older, gradually would increase the minimum wage from $8.25 to $10 an hour in 2017. Oberweis decided that age 26 should be the cutoff because that’s the age when people no longer can be covered under their parents’ health insurance.

Oberweis thinks that partisan politics will play a role in the success or defeat of his proposal. A separate minimum wage increase plan by State Sen. Kimberly Lightford, D-Maywood, advanced out of Illinois Senate committee in March. Lightford’s plan calls for a gradual minimum wage increase to $10.65 an hour in 2016.

“I’m hoping the Lightford bill is soundly defeated and that they look for better alternatives,” Oberweis said on Tuesday of his fellow legislators.

Oberweis said his age-restricted plan is more ideal than Democratic-backed plans, which he said would cost thousands of jobs because those plans call for everyone to receive an increase.

He cited a February Congressional Budget Office report that included estimated effects of a federal minimum wage increase of $10.10 an hour.

A federal minimum wage increase would move an estimated 900,000 people above the poverty line, but it would cost about 500,000 jobs, according to the report.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin is one of several legislators pushing to see the federal $10.10 increase. Oberweis is running against Durbin in November’s general election.

“Sen. Durbin believes that Sen. Oberweis’ proposal is fundamentally flawed,” said Ron Holmes, a Durbin spokesman.

He said Durbin wants all workers to have a shot at making a decent living, including college students, veterans and young parents.

Oberweis said that minimum-wage jobs ultimately give people experience to qualify for a higher-paying job. In theory, younger employees will need on-the-job training and haven’t earned a higher minimum wage.

In response to the criticism of exclusion, Oberweis said that no legislation is perfect but his plan won’t cost jobs.

“We’ve offered a good compromise, an alternative solution,” Oberweis said.