The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

January 4, 2014

Illinois would benefit from high-wage jobs

The Clinton Herald

---- — The state of Illinois should not raise the minimum-wage rate above its current level of $8.25 per hour.

The federal government, however, might consider a minimum-wage rate above its current $7.25 per hour.

Those statements are undoubtedly contradictory and the best policy for both state and federal governments is to create opportunities for higher-paying jobs that will move more people above the minimum-wage level.

Illinois has one of the highest minimum-wage rates in the nation and Gov. Pat Quinn has stated frequently that he would like the General Assembly to increase that wage rate, possibly as high as $10 an hour.

But Illinois does not operate in a vacuum. Surrounding states, and most of the rest of the states, have lower minimum wages. That makes Illinois appear to be unfriendly to business. In this case, it’s an accurate sentiment.

Combine the high minimum-wage rate with comparably higher taxes and fees, workers’ compensation costs and more stringent regulation and it’s no wonder that the state has one of the worst unemployment rates in the nation. It’s pretty clear that most businesses don’t want to expand in Illinois and many businesses have taken their operations, and their employees, elsewhere. State policies have had an impact on the state’s employment picture.

Those arguing that the federal minimum-wage rate of $7.25 is too low have some credibility. The current rate has been in effect for more than five years and it may be time to consider an increase.

Economists have argued about the impact of the minimum wage since it was instituted in the 1930s. One school of thought says increases in the minimum wage cause an increase in costs that actually results in a decrease in employment. Another school of thought believes that an increase in the minimum wage results in additional buying power by individuals. Those individuals spend more of their money, thus giving the economy a boost.

Like many economic arguments, facts can be presented that seem the bolster both sides.

What’s undeniable, however, is that there are too many minimum-wage workers. During more robust economic times, minimum-wage jobs were reserved primarily for those first entering the workforce or working at part-time jobs to supplement their income. What we’re currently seeing, however, are more and more people being moved from higher-paying jobs down into minimum-wage jobs. That’s not a healthy economic situation.

The best solution for Illinois isn’t necessarily to raise the minimum wage, but to increase the number of higher-paying jobs. We believe that Gov. Quinn sincerely wants to help those at the lower ends of the economic spectrum and the best way for him to do that is to focus on economic, tax and business policies that would create additional higher-paying jobs. The state needs a plan to put more people to work and to present higher-paying opportunities for its residents.

Dec. 29, The (Bloomington) Pantagraph

Although increasing the minimum wage is popular in many circles, it would be unwise for Illinois to move its minimum wage further away from other states.