Brian's Column 11-21-2014

The few days I spent in Springfield this past week were relatively uneventful. The tax increase was not even mentioned, and it sounds like the rideshare bill is not going to move until next year. The one big item on the agenda, a minimum wage increase bill, passed Senate committee, but with a few changes to make it more palatable to the somewhat more conservative House. To make it easier to get the bill through both chambers, the effective date was changed to July 1, 2015. The minimum wage would increase to $10 by that date and to $11 by the same date in 2016.

There are definite pros and cons to this bill. First, the pros—Chicago is tossing around the idea of passing a $13 minimum wage law—while a $10 and eventually $11 minimum wage will hurt Illinois businesses, $13 will hurt the state’s economic situation even more. According to Crain’s Chicago Business, the bill may pass because of a major compromise: the minimum wage “goes to $10 but applies statewide. Chicago’s power to go higher would be pre-empted.” The cons, though, are that the bill, in the long run, will hurt the state and the workers living on minimum wage more than it will help. Naomi Lopez Bauman writes in a November 19 Illinois Policy Institute article that raising the minimum wage will actually push the “lowest-skilled workers out of the job market.” Many of those who earn minimum wage, she goes on to say, will lose their government benefits when their wages increase, leaving them worse off in the end. Bauman concludes that raising the minimum wage is “a crude antipoverty tool,” because it doesn’t change anything for the 100,000 or so Illinois workers who work for commission or tips. In addition, most minimum wage workers start off at minimum wage but in a year they’re earning more than minimum wage because they’ve worked to develop their skills and to become more competent on the job.

Enough of politics, though. Thanksgiving is only a few days away, and we have so much to be thankful for in Northwestern Illinois. Yes, it’s cold (at least we’re not buried under 7 plus feet of snow like Buffalo, NY, right?), and, yes, the vibrant fall leaves are all but gone; still, I wouldn’t choose another state to live in. The people from this district—the farmers, the small businessmen and women, the school teachers and administrators, law enforcement and firefighters —are some of the hardest working people I know. You and many others are the reason I chose to go to Springfield, to fight for your economic and political good. As we all give thanks this Thursday, I want you to know that you and all the people in this district will be at the top of my list of things to be thankful for. I couldn’t ask for a better group of people to work with and to serve.

Greek philosopher Epicurus once said “do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.” We may have much we want to change in the state, but this week as we reflect on all we’ve been given, let’s remember how good we here in Northwestern Illinois have it, the friends, the family, the bountiful harvest, and the freedom to live, speak, and worship as we choose.

As always, you can reach me or Sally at 815/232-0774 or email us at repstewart@gmail.com. You can also visit my website at www.repbrianstewart.com or follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus.

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