Saturday, November 8, 2014

Two-thirds say ‘yea’ to minimum wage hike; means little to gov.-elect

Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner already is throwing around edicts about what he thinks Pat Quinn and the outgoing General Assembly ought to be allowed to do with their remaining time.

Although the issue he’s getting all worked up over is NOT the one he thought he was going to have to address back when he was a mere gubernatorial candidate with dreams of someday being the “top dog” of Illinois state government.

BACK DURING THE gubernatorial debates, Rauner kept trying to get Quinn to promise not to push for a permanent extension of the income tax increase that is supposed to wither away come Jan. 1.

Quinn, to his credit, would commit to no such thing – particularly since he had always made it clear he wanted to keep the additional revenue generated by the temporary increase. Nobody would have believed him if he had agreed to Rauner’s demands.

Now, Quinn has no intention of touching the issue. The state still is going to experience a severe financial shortfall this fiscal year. But since Quinn is history come Jan. 9, it’s now Rauner who will have to resolve this problem.

In fact, the one thing that Quinn promised to get done during the Legislature’s fall session beginning in a couple of weeks is to approve an increase in the state’s minimum wage. Illinois already has a wage higher than the federal minimum, but the cost of living is rising at a faster rate.

QUINN WOULD PROBABLY love it if he could be the guy who gets credit for putting the minimum wage higher than $10 an hour.

The idea also is popular amongst the electorate.

In a year when the conservative ideologues are going to want to believe that their views predominated on Election Day, Illinois voters gave a 2-1 margin of support to a referendum question that asked if the state’s minimum wage rate ought to be increased.

There may be those who will screech and scream loudly and shrilly about how paying unskilled labor more money is the death of our economy. Rauner appears to be amongst them.

BECAUSE IN PRESENTING his “transition team” earlier this week (including one-time gubernatorial dreamer William Daley and one-time nominee Glenn Poshard), Rauner also made it clear he wants nothing done by the General Assembly until he gets to be a full-fledged governor.

Considering that he’s already trying to create the impression that it’s the Democratic Party-dominated General Assembly that’s refusing to listen to his orders, it seems he wants to be the “chief” who barks orders and has them blindly followed.

Including the minimum wage, where he now says he’s willing to consider some hike (although not as big as the $13/hour total that Mayor Rahm Emanuel has hinted at) but ONLY if it is combined with alleged business reforms.

Some of which strike people as being just a step or two removed from making Illinois into a “right to work” state – like one of those places in the South that goes out of its way to inhibit organized labor and the concerns of working people. Definitely not something that will please anybody whose concern is boosting the pay people receive for their work.

I’M NOT ABOUT to predict with any certainty what will happen. But considering that there is resentment arising from the perception that Rauner tried to create on Election Night that he reached out to the legislative leaders (when it seems he really didn’t), I won’t be surprised to see something happen on the minimum wage issue -- just as a way of telling the incoming governor where he can "stuff" his partisan ideals.

Would our Legislature, at the urging of Gov. Pat Quinn, be willing to back a boost in the minimum salary a person could be paid for their work – purely out of spite?

I’m sure the employees who wound up with a little more money from their paychecks wouldn’t object. I was even amongst the roughly 2.2 million voters who said “yes” to a minimum wage hike.

But public policy set by spite? Sad to say, it sounds way too much like the “Illinois way” of doing government!


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