Minimum wage hike; helping those entering the workforce

House passes minimum wage increase
The Illinois House this week passed legislation which would raise the statewide minimum wage from its current level of $8.25 an hour to a new rate of $15 an hour by 2025. The increases would occur gradually, beginning on January 1 of next year. Under this new structure, Illinois would have the highest minimum wage in the Midwest and would be tied with California and New York for the highest in the nation.

After a great many conversations with residents of the 106th district in the last few weeks, as well as many calls and e-mails, I decided to oppose this legislation. Local businesses expressed their concerns that this law would make it necessary for them to either raise their prices or lay off employees, or both. It would be especially harmful to family farmers, already struggling with high expenses, who cannot raise their prices to produce extra funds. Our already financially-stretched local governments and school districts will also be impacted by this legislation, since they will now have to find the funds to pay these higher wages.

With so much of our district located just a short drive from the Indiana border; where business owners will not have to consider raising prices or cutting jobs to pay a higher minimum wage; the negative impact on our local economy is a major concern. I worry that instead of helping those who might see a wage increase this legislation will just drive up the cost of living and push even more jobs out of the state.

Governor Pritzker has said he will sign the legislation.

Tax credits for internships, reforming workers compensation
One positive thing we can do to help those just entering the job market is to create incentives for employers to hire interns. Internships are great ways for students and other young workers to gain workplace experience and start their careers. I have introduced legislation, House Bill 227, which would create a state tax credit to encourage employers to hire up to five qualified college interns or five qualified high school interns. It would limit the business to claiming no more than $5000 in total credits. I believe that this is a way we can help those seeking to enter the job market.

Another way we can attract and retain jobs in Illinois is through reforming our workers compensation system. The costs which job creators must pay for workers compensation insurance put us at a severe disadvantage against neighboring states when job creators are deciding where to locate (or whether to leave). This week I introduced three bills to reform Illinois’ workers compensation system and improve our jobs climate.

House Bill 2585 would change the bond requirements for a party seeking judicial review of an award granted by the workers compensation commission. House Bill 2586 adjusts the formula used when calculating compensation in cases where a person is seeking compensation for another injury. House Bill 2587 requires those receiving certain pain management medications to sign a written agreement with the prescribing physician agreeing to comply with the conditions of the prescription, and prohibits additional prescriptions if the person is non-compliant. These are just a portion of the kinds of reforms our system will need in order to help Illinois attract and retain jobs, while still ensuring compensation for those who are injured on the job. The bills were introduced on Thursday and have not yet been assigned to a committee for review.

How much do we owe? 
As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $8,067,616,423 in unpaid bills to state vendors. One year ago, the backlog stood at $9.1 billion. This figure represents the amount of bills submitted to the office of the Comptroller and still awaiting payment. It does not include debts that can only be estimated, such as our unfunded pension liability which is subject to a wide range of factors and has been estimated to be approximately $130 billion.

Meeting with Livingston County business leaders
Tuesday I met with members of the Greater Livingston County Economic Development Council (GLCEDC) as we looked at Workers Compensation and how it impacts workers and business in Illinois. The proposal to raise the minimum wage was also on the minds of these local small business leaders. I appreciated the invitation from Adam Dontz the Chief Executive Officer of the GLCEDC. We had a very nice turnout for this event, which included my House colleagues Rep. Keith Wheeler of Oswego and Rep Dan Ugaste of Geneva. These are issues which are going to have a tremendous impact on our ability to create and retain jobs in Illinois.

Did You Know?
Hearing loss trails only heart disease and arthritis as a leading physical health condition in America. More than two million Illinoisans have some type of hearing loss. The Illinois Deaf and Hard of Hearing Commission is a state agency established to assist those with hearing loss in Illinois. The agency promotes independence for those with hearing loss through education and awareness, and also offers information for those who wish to become a licensed sign language interpreter.