Demmer’s Dispatch: February 15, 2019

Demmer Joins House Republicans in Opposing 82% Increase in Minimum Wage

Illinois’ reputation as being unfriendly to job creators continued this week as House Democrats pushed through an 82% increase in the Illinois minimum wage. SB01 will incrementally increase Illinois’ minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025, driving labor costs to be the highest by far in the Midwest. When SB01 is fully enacted, Illinois will join New York and California with the highest minimum wage in the nation. I was vocal with my opposition to this bill when it was debated in the House on Wednesday. Click here to watch some of my floor comments.

Numerous studies have demonstrated that increasing the minimum wage leads to job losses for low-wage workers. After Illinois raised its minimum wage in 2010, unemployment among teenagers and part-time workers went up. No wage is enough if there isn’t an opportunity for a job. Business owners cannot simply absorb the higher cost of doing business. They are forced to cut their workforce or go out of business.

Businesses also have a limited ability to raise prices to make up for the cost of a higher minimum wage. Two-thirds of Illinois’ population lives within a 40-minute drive of the state border. With higher gas, liquor, tobacco and sales taxes, this will create yet another reason for these people to shop across the border.

Beyond the lost jobs and higher costs to Illinois businesses, the Democrats’ minimum wage hike will have a massive fiscal impact to the State of Illinois. Every year one of the most difficult votes we take is on the passage of a state budget. SB01 adds hundreds of millions of dollars in new budgetary pressures. We already have billions in unpaid bills on our shoulders, and we simply cannot afford the expectations built into this bill. If we don’t come up with a sufficient increase in appropriations to meet these new obligations, the responsibility falls to social service providers, to non-profits, to school districts and local governments to pay the new minimum wage. SB01 puts incredible pressure on these providers.

The Pritzker Administration estimates the cost to the State to fully implement a $15 minimum wage at more than a billion dollars. Their estimates are less than the estimated cost increases for nursing homes alone. The billion dollar cost estimate also leaves out the massive costs to K-12 schools, higher education, counties, municipalities, park districts, etc. All of these costs will be passed along to Illinois taxpayers.

Increasing Illinois’ minimum wage will hurt our small businesses that are struggling to stay afloat in a difficult economy. We cannot afford to lose any more jobs. We cannot afford the billions of dollars in additional costs to the State and local governments. That is why House Republicans unanimously opposed raising the minimum wage to $15.

Thursday’s House vote on the minimum wage bill was 69-47-1. The measure now goes to Governor Pritzker for his signature.

Demmer Minimum Wage Survey Results
I recently polled my E-Newsletter subscribers to learn their stance on the minimum wage proposal. Of the 173 individuals who participated, 133 said they were opposed to an increase in the minimum wage (77%), and 40 people said they favored it (23%). A similar poll I conducted on my Facebook page produced similar results, with 80 percent of the respondents saying they were against raising the minimum wage and 20 percent weighing in in favor of it.

Rep. Demmer Local Legislative Office Moves to Dixon; Open House Scheduled for March 2
As a reminder, earlier this month my local district office moved to a new location in Dixon. The new office location is 105 E. First Street, Suite 110, in Dixon. The phone number will remain (815) 561-3690, and office hours will still be 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM, Monday through Thursday.

Senator Stewart and I will be hosting an open house at the new office on Saturday, March 2, from 9:00 AM until 11:00 AM. Please stop by and say hello!

Representative Bourne Leads Appointment of New Legislative Inspector General
This week Rep. Avery Bourne led a bipartisan, bicameral group of legislators in the selection of a person with trusted legal experience to take on the duty of examining allegations of misconduct within the General Assembly. Significant allegations of misconduct, including allegations of sexual harassment, were made against General Assembly members and senior members of legislative staff during the 100th General Assembly (January 2017 – January 2019). Under state law, allegations of these types must be referred to the office of an independent Legislative Inspector General for scrutiny and possible referrals for discipline. This includes, in rare cases, referral of an allegation to law enforcement.

Representative Bourne, who serves as chairperson of the Legislative Ethics Commission, and her colleagues united around the appointment of Carol M. Pope as Legislative Inspector General. With experience as a state circuit judge and as a state appellate judge, Judge Pope was seen by the Legislative Ethics Commission as an excellent candidate to serve as Legislative Inspector General for a term from March 1, 2019 through June 30, 2023. Rep. Bourne was the lead House sponsor of the resolution of appointment, SJR 17, which was unanimously approved by the House on Thursday, February 14.

Exelon Expresses Concern about the Future of Illinois Nuclear Power Plants
Utility holding company Exelon asserts that the total operating cost of nuclear-generated electricity is placing pressure on its mandate to generate and sell electricity to customers at reasonable rates. Current natural gas supplies and the cost of gas-turbine-fired electricity could put three major Exelon nuclear-powered generating complexes, at Braidwood, Byron, and Dresden, at risk for early closure.

The three reactor complexes, all located in Northern Illinois, generate thousands of megawatts of electricity for feeding into the interstate grid that serves Chicago and adjacent metropolitan areas. Exelon could ask Illinois for adjustments to state law to enable power generated by these three nuclear power complexes to be sold into the grid marketplace. A similar change to state law, the Future Energy Jobs Act, became law in December 2016. The adjustments made by this 2016 law to Illinois electricity markets are credited with saving two other Illinois nuclear-power complexes. The Central Illinois reactor in Clinton, and the Northern Illinois reactor at Quad Cities, had their operational status stabilized following passage of the Future Energy Jobs Act.