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Rauner Vetoes Minimum Wage Raise For Caregivers Of Developmentally Disabled

By aaroncynic in News on Aug 29, 2016 4:08PM

Governor Bruce Rauner outside the Director's Lawn at the Illinois State Fair in August 2016. Photo by Aaron Cynic

Governor Bruce Rauner vetoed several bills on Friday afternoon, including one that would’ve raised wages to $15 an hour for workers who care for people with developmental disabilities.

Citing concern for Illinois taxpayers having to foot part of the bill, despite the fact that these workers themselves pay taxes, Rauner said that $15 an hour was too big of an increase over the national average of $10.71 for caregivers. “The bill would increase the cost of caring for people with development disabilities by $330 million per year, of which Illinois taxpayers would be required to pay at least half,” said Rauner in a statement published by Capitol Fax. “The bill does not provide any mechanism for funding this additional cost.”

According to a statement from the Ray Graham Association, a service provider that cares for more than 2,000 adults and children with developmental disabilities, the state has not increased reimbursement rates for direct service providers in eight years, and the average wage is about $9.35 an hour. “Illinois ranks 45th of the 50 states in spending for community services for people with developmental disabilities,” said Kim Zoeller, CEO. “This workforce crisis is so great that Illinois is now in violation of the federal Ligas consent decree that ensures access to appropriate services. We are extremely disappointed by Governor Rauner’s veto.”

While the national average for caregivers might be higher than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, which is a dollar an hour lower than the minimum wage for the state of Illinois, $10.71 is a meager when compared to what wages would be if they kept up with productivity and inflation. A 2012 Center for Economic Policy and Research study showed had the minimum wage kept pace with these factors, it would’ve reached $21.72 an hour in 2012. MIT’s “living wage calculator” shows that a household in Cook County with a sole provider and two children needs to pull in at least $10 an hour just to make it to “poverty wages.”

Art Dykstra, CEO of Trinity Services, a Joliet non-profit that serves more than 3,500 children and adults with developmental disabilities or other mental health needs, told the Chicago Tribune that a staffing crisis is causing the state’s care system to crumble. “"We are getting to the point where we will have to ask families to consider taking their loved ones home on weekends because we can't adequately staff the houses,” said Dykstra.