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home : opinions : columns   January 25, 2015

6/17/2014 9:08:00 AM
Column: Don't get me wrong

Craig Sterrett
NT News Editor

A friend of mine, a longtime La Salle businessman, likes to give me a hard time.

He loves to say, “I read your column.” Pause. “And I didn’t get it.”

He doesn’t get it because my opinion doesn’t always match his, and because I don’t strongly take a stand that’s going to alienate half of the people in the Illinois Valley, or the planet.

Most recently, I wrote a column that mentioned the push by the Democratic Party president and Democrat-dominated Illinois capitol for a minimum wage of $10 or higher.

What my friend didn’t get was my opinion of a $10-per-hour minimum wage.

That’s because I wasn’t writing about that, and I didn’t offer my personal opinion. I was writing about, and took a strong position against, the national minimum wage for tipped employees, which is $2.13 before tips — whether they’re actually making tips or not. My point was clear — Illinois’ minimum wage for tipped employees, of almost $5, is high enough, and the national minimum, observed in places like Indiana and Kentucky, is inadequate.

As for the minimum wage, if a bill passed in the Democrat-controlled state capitol is signed by the governor, the people of Illinois will be given a chance to vote Nov. 4 to provide an opinion of whether the statewide minimum wage should be $10.

It’s just an advisory referendum, meaning conservatives can say it’s meaningless and liberals (and House Speaker Michael Madigan) can claim that it’s mandate, if a majority of Illinois voters say yes to a high minimum wage.

Personally, I don’t think the minimum wage is something that should be determined by popular vote. I can’t tell my employer what to pay me. So why can the masses tell all employers in Illinois where they should set the floor for the wage scale, especially if many of those employers will say they can’t thrive if the minimum rises to $10, that they will just have fewer employees working frantically or that they’ll leave Illinois if the minimum is $10?

Voters should answer referendum questions if they’re being asked to spend more or pay more taxes. They probably should be the ones to determine some property rights issues — although many of those decisions are the job of the judiciary branch.

Voters shouldn’t be telling their state’s employers how much to spend on the employment portion of their budgets.

I visited this past weekend with state Rep. David Leitch (R-Peoria), a conservative who also has proved wise enough to be elected and unopposed term after term.

I’m not one to agree with all the different issues Leitch and conservatives might attach to his explanation that “Everybody loves Santa Claus.” That’s because it’s currently popular to oppose and label as a “gift” and “welfare for the lazy” just about any social program that has ever been set up by government as a safety net. It’s funny how popular opinion tends to go against that of whoever’s in the Oval Office.

But on the possibility of a popular vote on the minimum wage, I have to agree with Leitch. He figures the Democrats in power in the General Assembly know anyone currently making $8 or $9 an hour is likely to agree with increasing the minimum wage to $10.

He says the Democrats are just trying to get the referendum on the ballot to give more people who are making those low hourly wages a reason to turn out to vote this November. What that means, in short, I believe, is it’s a stunt by Michael Madigan and Democratic leaders to get more voters to the polls to vote for Gov. Pat Quinn and against gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner, the Republican industrialist from Winnetka.

Now, people who have the right to vote should do so every election. But whether you think Illinois should again increase its minimum wage or whether you’d agree with Leitch that employers and corporations will just employ fewer people or “vote with their feet” by leaving the state, you have to realize putting a non-binding wage referendum on the ballot was a sneaky trick.

And don’t get me wrong: Chicago Democrats aren’t the only members of the dirty tricks gangs out there. Still, Illinois is not in good shape by most measures, and since Chicago-area Democrats such as Mike Madigan are running the state, why would the populace want to continue doing anything those folks desire?

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