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.

I’ll be heading to Springfield next week for veto session, and, to be honest, the other legislators and I (with the exception of House Speaker Madigan and Senate President Cullerton) aren’t quite sure what to expect this time around.  It could be a busy season in Springfield, or it could be relatively quiet, if Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton choose to let soon-to-be Governor Rauner have his wish—that nothing major would be done until he takes office.  The three of them did meet in the last week, which, I think, bodes well for a good relationship between the two parties while Governor-Elect Rauner holds office.  We’ll just have to see what happens.

If it is a busy lame-duck session, though, here’s some of what we may cover:

·         Ridesharing (HB4075). Governor Quinn vetoed this bill last summer because he wanted cities to be able to develop their own laws concerning ridesharing.  HB4075 is a one-size-fits-all bill that could potentially kill ridesharing or at least hinder its ability to deliver economically.  Rideshare drivers get much better pay than taxi drivers, and they currently don’t have to jump through as many hoops as taxi drivers.  This bill would, at this present time, only affect Chicago, since Chicago is the only Illinois city with ridesharing services.  However, economic development anywhere in the state is good for the whole state, so if Chicago rideshare services are able to continue unhindered we all benefit.  There are also rumors that ridesharing may make its way into other cities, like Peoria, and, who knows, maybe someday Freeport or Galena or East Dubuque or Rockford.  

·         Education funding (SB16).  This bill didn’t make it through the House this past spring, but rumors abound that the powers that be may push it through this fall.  In the words of one astute taxpayer who wrote an editorial in The Regional News, “Senate Bill 16 is nothing more than an attempt by the state of Illinois to ignore its ‘primary’ obligation to fund public education by shifting even more of the burden to the local taxpayer.”  The funding formula would be based on local property taxes and would not increase state funding but would only redistribute it.  If this bill comes up in session, I will be voting no.  Education funding needs to be reformed, but it can’t be fixed by taking away from some students and giving to others.

·         Minimum wage.  Illinois voters voted heavily in favor of an increase to minimum wage. If House Speaker Madigan or Senate President Cullerton introduces a minimum wage bill, it would have to pass the General Assembly with 60 percent of the vote.  My hope is that Governor-Elect Rauner gets his way on this one, that they wait to pass any minimum wage legislation until he is in office, and that, IF it passes, it is part of a package that increases business in the state.

·         Millionaire’s tax. Again, Illinois voted heavily in favor of a millionaire’s tax increase.  I personally don’t think this issue will come up in veto session, simply because even if it were to pass, it would have to wait around until the next general election for voters to weigh in on a constitutional amendment.  It could not go into effect until 2017, which would leave plenty of time for millionaires to leave the state en masse—just what we need right now!

All these bills are out to fix the economic state of Illinois, because we are last in just about every single economic list there is (except taxes, which most of these bills would only increase).  But here’s my take: government can’t and won’t fix economic problems.  The only way to fix it is to allow the free market to work its wonders uninhibited by red tape and taxes.  And here’s Herbert Hoover’s take: “economic depression cannot be cured by legislative action or executive pronouncement.  Economic wounds must be healed by the action of the cells of the economic body—the producers and consumers themselves.”  He got that right.

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.