Veto Denies Home Care Workers Wage Hike

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner vetoed a measure last week that would have increased the hourly wage for home care workers to $15 over the next four years. The veto comes at a time when multiple states are undertaking legislation to boost wage levels for home health care workers.

The bill would have increased home health care workers’ pay from $13 per hour to $15, in line with several other cities with legislation to bring the hourly rate up to $15 over the next several years. It was approved by the Illinois House of Representatives in May. The Illinois bill was backed by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Healthcare Illinois, the union that represents Illinois home health care workers. 

A representative from SEIU responded to the veto by comparing Governor Rauner to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

“This is what we saw at Donald Trump’s convention last week,” Kelleher said last week. “It was a blur of intolerance and division and these vetoes are showing how Bruce Rauner is really bringing the spirit of Cleveland to Illinois.”

The veto is the latest action by Illinois that limits home health care wages. In June, the state capped the number of hours home health care workers could work at 40 hours per week in order to limit overtime pay. Home health care workers that work more than the cap will have to justify their overtime.

Rauner cited high costs among his reasons for vetoing the measure on Friday, July 22.

“…These changes would saddle the state’s taxpayers with almost $87 million in additional annual costs,” Rauner wrote of his decision. “This bill does not provide for a funding source for that $87 million. This is money that the state does not have and would have to offset through cuts to this and other programs.”

The proposal was shot down in the midst of the state’s ongoing budget stalemate. Earlier this spring, the state had more than $235 million in backlog payments to home health care service providers.

However, Rauner went a step further in his veto, noting that Illinois home health care workers “already earn marathon their counterparts, both here in Illinois and in other state,” he wrote.

The average wage for “personal care assistants” is $10.60 in the United States. Illinois workers already earn $13 per hour, Rauner cited.

“The state simply cannot afford to increase the hourly rate from $13 to $15,” he wrote. “When the rest of the state government is being asked to do more with less, it would be irresponsible to give one special group a 15% pay hike.”

Written by Amy Baxter