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AP FACT CHECK: Mayor hopeful omits context on minimum wage

February 14, 2019
FILE - In this Dec. 9. 2018 file photo, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle speaks during a news conference at the Chicago Teachers Union headquarters in Chicago. Her campaign's claim, made on Twitter and on Facebook last week, says, "Toni Preckwinkle is the only mayoral candidate who has a plan to raise Chicago's minimum wage to $15." It's true that Preckwinkle has a detailed plan to raise the minimum wage — and fast. However, her claim ignores the city's existing law, which already guarantees the minimum wage will eventually reach $15 an hour. (Colin Boyle/Chicago Sun-Times via AP, File)

Illinois lawmakers are poised to raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025, but that hasn’t stopped one of the leading candidates for Chicago mayor from pushing for a faster path to that level.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, a top contender in a crowded field to replace current Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, wants to raise it in Chicago to $15 by 2021. On Twitter, she singled out four of her strongest opponents — Susana Mendoza, Bill Daley, Willie Wilson and Gery Chico — for failing to announce their own plan to raise the minimum wage. The election is Feb. 26.

A look at her campaign’s claim, made on Twitter and on Facebook last week.

THE CLAIM: “Toni Preckwinkle is the only mayoral candidate who has a plan to raise Chicago’s minimum wage to $15.”

THE FACTS: It’s true that Preckwinkle has a detailed plan to raise the minimum wage — and fast. However, her claim ignores the city’s existing law, which already guarantees the minimum wage will eventually reach $15 an hour.

Chicago’s current minimum wage is $12. Under a 2014 city law, the minimum wage will climb to $13 in July.

After this year, the law requires that minimum pay in the city be raised annually based on inflation , although the increase is capped at 2.5 percent every year. Under the existing law, city workers would see a $15 minimum wage no sooner than 2025 — the same year the state is set to reach a $15 pay minimum. Inflation typically increases 2 percent yearly, meaning it could take up to seven or eight years for Chicago to hit $15 an hour, according to Frank Manzo, the policy director at the Illinois Economic Policy Institute. (Chicago has home rule, so it does not necessarily need to follow the state’s minimum wage law.)

If by 2025, Illinois has the same minimum wage as Chicago, where the cost of living is higher than the rest of the state, it would decrease the value of city workers’ minimum wage, Manzo noted.

Preckwinkle’s plan would raise the city’s minimum wage at a much quicker pace to avoid that. She’s called for 50-cent increases every six months — putting the city on track to have a $15 minimum wage by 2021.

Mendoza has called for a $15 minimum wage hike. Her campaign website says she will “advocate for a statewide minimum wage increase ... while also advocating to increase the city’s minimum wage to $15 in the years to come” but doesn’t offer an actual plan.

A spokeswoman for Wilson said the candidate doesn’t have a minimum wage but does support a “living wage,” which factors in the cost of things such as housing and supporting a family to establish wages.

Daley has said he wants to review the impact of the $13 hourly wage in July before increasing it further. A spokeswoman for Chico did not return requests for comment from the AP.

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