SPRINGFIELD, Ill., Feb. 6 (UPI) -- Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn Wednesday called for an increase in the state's minimum wage to "at least $10," well above the federal level.
In his State of the State address, Quinn also called on the Legislature to make hard choices on the debt-ridden state pension system.
"Nobody in Illinois should work 40 hours a week and live in poverty. That's a principle as old as the Bible," Quinn said. "That's why, over the next four years, we must raise the minimum wage to at least $10 an hour."
Currently, the federal government has set the minimum wage at $7.25 while the state of Washington has the highest minimum wage at $9.19. Illinois' currently is $8.25.
On state pensions, Quinn said reining them in was crucial to the economy.
"Do we want, in the years to come, a prosperous Illinois where working people continue to have good jobs ... where businesses thrive ... and where all our children have a world-class education? Or do we want to stop the progress and watch our economic recovery stall?," the Democratic governor said.
"This is a choice about whether we'll make the tough decisions necessary to balance our budget by reforming our public pension systems or whether we will let our jobs, our safety, and our schools be squeezed out by skyrocketing pension costs."
The state has a growing pension debt that has almost reached $97 billion, the Chicago Tribune reported.
Quinn praised President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act, "which will improve the health of the people of Illinois and create thousands of jobs. But to make this a reality, we must act now. We have work to do.
"So I call on the General Assembly to increase access to health coverage for the uninsured through Medicaid and to create the Illinois Health Insurance Exchange," where people could buy health insurance aided by federal subsidies.
Quinn also urged legislators to approve same-sex marriage saying it's time "to take that next step in achieving full equality. Marriage equality is coming to Illinois."
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