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Lawmakers Don't Expect Iowa to Follow Illinois' Minimum Wage Hike

Illinois will increase its minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025. A couple southeast Iowa lawmakers do not expect their state to follow suit.

The radio story

Iowa’s minimum wage currently matches the federal minimum was rate of $7.25 an hour. 

State Senator Rich Taylor (D-Mount Pleasant) said an increase in Iowa’s statewide minimum wage is desperately needed. But he does not anticipate any support from Republicans, who control the Legislature and the Governor’s Office.

Illinois minium wage is already a dollar an hour more than Iowa's rate and Taylor said a widening gap could hurt businesses in river communities such as Keokuk and Fort Madison.

“People are going to flow across the river with the money,” said Taylor. “We are already losing so many people to out of state… not just to Illinois but to all-over the Midwest.”

Taylor said at the very least, lawmakers should not prevent cities and counties from increasing the minimum wage within their borders. Lee County was one of a handful of counties in Iowa to approve a minimum wage hike several years ago, but the legislature responded by barring local governments from taking such action.

State Representative Joe Mitchell (R-Mount Pleasant) sees the issue much differently than Taylor. He said he’s worried that small businesses will close their doors if the minimum wage is increased in Iowa.

Mitchell said it should be up to businesses to decide how much money to pay their employees, adding that if people start leaving jobs paying at or just above the minimum wage, companies will react.

“That’s how the free market works,” said Mitchell. “That’s how we have always done things—capitalism—and that’s how it’s going to stay.”

Mitchell said there are plenty of businesses in southeast Iowa offering more than twice the current minimum wage plus benefits.

“There are competitive wages here,” said Mitchell. “People just need to look for them—and they are hiring.”

Copyright 2021 Tri States Public Radio. To see more, visit Tri States Public Radio.