Illinois’ new Governor outlined his spending plan for the coming year during the week, after signing a controversial minimum-wage measure into law. In other action, Senate committees continued their work of hearing public debate of bills to determine if they will advance to the full Senate for a vote.
Governor J. B. Pritzker delivered his first Budget Address February 20 to a joint session of legislators in the House of Representatives Chamber. The Governor’s proposed budget references more spending and more tax increases. The Constitution requires the budget to be balanced, using current-year revenues as the starting point to balance the budget. The Governor’s budget relies on taxes on recreational marijuana, sports betting, and eight other new taxes – none of which have been approved.
Another option? As the legislative budget process gets under way, lawmakers should instead work together in a bipartisan way to make the tough decisions necessary to pass a balanced budget with structural reforms that will boost the economy and create jobs.
Fiscal Year 2020 runs from July 1, 2019, through June 30, 2020.
Governor signs controversial minimum wage hike
My starting point in opposition to an increase in minimum wage is based on an article I saw in the Wall Street Journal a few years back, saying $12.80 an hour is the average wage where it pays to replace a person with a robot or other equipment. I have confirmed that number to be high in some cases. One employer told me of a piece of equipment he decided to buy last week that cost $40,000 and replaces $30,000 worth of annual labor. I am very concerned about job losses for unskilled workers.
With those facts in mind, I fought as hard as I could, but to no vail as the Democrat legislative leaders forced through a minimum wage hike, which Governor Pritzker signed into law on February 19. The controversial legislation was advanced by the Senate and House on party-line votes, despite economic concerns from employers and public groups.
The plan will raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour over six years, and to $13 per hour during the same period for those employees younger than 18.
My greatest frustration is the impact that a $15 wage will have on downstate workers. One size does not fit all. There’s no reason to increase minimum wage downstate to the same level as Chicago where the cost of living is much higher.
One person noted that he could not hire high school kids at that rate, and he would have to pass the costs along to customers or cut services offered. We are already under-employing high school kids. Only 30 percent have a job between ages 16 and 19, compared to 45 percent in 1980.
With so many people owning or working for a small business, this mandated increase will have far-reaching effects. We should instead work to empower small businesses and help them expand. Instead of mandating a higher minimum wage, we should pass laws that make sense and help businesses create jobs.
Opponents of the plan also raised concerns that the incremental increase could have far-reaching implications for employers across the board, including an increase in annual costs for state agencies, local school districts, human service providers and hospitals.
Protecting Mahomet Aquifer
Also during the week, a legislative package was introduced to protect the Mahomet Aquifer, the primary water source for Central Illinois.
Based on recommendations from the Mahomet Aquifer Task Force, the legislation is supported by a bipartisan group of lawmakers from the Senate and the House of Representatives.
Senate Bill 2073 would create the Mahomet Aquifer Council to serve as a watchdog and to provide oversight for the Mahomet Aquifer.
Senate Bill 2071 would provide $1 million in funding for equipment for the University of Illinois’ Prairie Research Institute (PRI) so that the organization can continue to research and study the Aquifer. Senate Bill 2072 would provide $2.3 million in funding for ongoing PRI operations.
Senate Bill 2070 would appropriate $4 million for the utilization of helicopter-based time-domain electromagnetics technology for the purpose of mapping and studying of an area of the Aquifer known as Zone 2, where a recent leak of natural gas occurred.
Senate Bill 2074 would allow the State Treasurer to accept restitution payment from Peoples Gas, if a court finds the company liable for a recent leak of natural gas into the Aquifer.
The Children’s Health Caucus Panel met February 20 in Springfield to address the increasing rates of anxiety and depression in children. The Panel talked with Elizabeth deGruy, Director of Special Education, Champaign Public Schools; Alicia Urven, LPC, Enos Elementary School; Colleen Cicchetti, Executive Director, Lurie Children’s Center for Childhood Resilience; Alexa James, Executive Director, NAMI Chicago; Anna and Susan Fintzen, of Geneva, Illinois. Co-chaired by Senator Julie Morrison (D-Deerfield), Senator Chuck Weaver (R-Peoria), Representative Camille Lilly (D-Chicago) and Representative Tom Demmer (R-Dixon), the Children’s Health Caucus was formed in February 2018 to review early childhood development; the physical, social and emotional health and well-being of Illinois children and adolescents; and evidence-based policies and programs to achieve health equity for children, families and communities throughout the state.
IN THE DISTRICT
I was honored to join Senator Neil Anderson, Representative Dan Swanson and Representative Tony McCombie February 18 at the Henry County Farm Bureau and County Board legislative update meeting.
The discussion was honest, informed and challenging as we updated attendees on the devastating impact downstate of the minimum wage increase, as well as other business-killing measures we see ahead.
Our residents are the salt of the earth and deserve more help – and fewer mandates – from Springfield, where so many of our colleagues do not understand the different challenges facing downstate. They must realize that one size does not fit all in our state.
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