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This month, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker (D) and New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy (D) each fulfilled campaign promises by signing legislation to enact a $15 per hour minimum wage in their states. The Illinois bill (IL SB 1) will increase the state's current minimum wage of $8.25 per hour to $9.25 next January, followed by a hike to $10 per hour in July 2020. The minimum wage would then increase by $1 each year until 2025, ultimately reaching $15 per hour. Likewise, New Jersey's legislation (NJ A15) would gradually increase the state’s minimum wage from $8.85 to $15 per hour by 2024.

Illinois and New Jersey join California, the District of Columbia, Massachusetts, and New York in enacting legislation to incrementally increase their minimum wages to $15 per hour. In 2016, New York and Oregon both enacted incremental increases by geographic area within the state, with Oregon's wage gradually rising to $14.75 per hour in 2023. Since then, many proposals have included formulas for location-based increases, taking into account the differences in costs of living between urban and rural areas.

So far in 2019, lawmakers in 22 states have introduced over 50 bills seeking to increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour (including Illinois and New Jersey).

In addition, more than half the states have considered some type of legislation this session that either increases the minimum wage or restores local power to enact higher minimum wages.

Background

In the 116th Congress, the House Education and Labor Committee Chair Bobby Scott (D-VA) introduced the “Raise the Wage Act” (H.R. 582), which raises the federal hourly minimum wage to $15 by 2024, up from the current $7.25. Senator Bernie Sanders' (I-VT) introduced the Senate version (S.150).

While traditionally progressive states have been the first to enact $15 minimum wages, many states could enact higher wages via ballot measure, removing the legislative process altogether. Last November, minimum wage increase measures in Arkansas and Missouri both passed overwhelmingly. In 2014, voters in four states — Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota — increased the state minimum wages via ballot, and two years later, four more states — Arizona, Colorado, Maine, and Washington — voted to increase their wage as well.