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A $10 minimum wage

What are local businesses saying?

PRINCETON — Last week, the Illinois House passed House Bill 3814 — an advisory referendum to ask voters if they support increasing the state’s minimum wage to $10 an hour.

The bill, which is sponsored by House Speaker Michael Madigan, now goes to the Illinois Senate. After the passing of the bill, Gov. Pat Quinn released a statement about his commitment to raising minimum wage.

“Raising the minimum wage will support hardworking men and women across our state and boost Illinois’ economy by increasing spending at local businesses,” he said. “As we work to build a majority to raise the minimum wage in Illinois, this referendum will help us get the job done.”

“Democracy is about having a voice. I’m glad that voters will have a chance to make their voices heard on this important issue that will benefit hundreds of thousands of working people across Illinois,” he said.

But a “benefit” is not what some local businesses owners are thinking right now. In fact, many look at the potential as a negative impact on business and feel less people will want to spend money because prices will no doubt have to increase to help pay employees’ wages.

Mary Kramer of Kramer’s Kitchen and Catering is just one of the many area non-franchise restaurant owners who will be affected by an increase.

Right now, her employees at Kramer’s Kitchen are paid more than the current minimum wage, which is $8.25 an hour, but if an increase of $10 an hour was to go into effect, all employees at her restaurant will be at less than the minimum wage.

“If this goes through, prices are going to go higher, and this will hurt the economy,” she said. “They are saying it will boost economy, but will people really spend more money? With this, prices will go higher.”

With food prices already at record highs, many businesses will be forced to raise their prices this summer to help with costs, but with a possible minimum wage increase lingering, businesses owners will yet again have to anticipate raising their prices.

Kramer mentioned that some restaurant owners themselves don’t even make $10 to $12 an hour.

“You take whatever is left of the profit, and when there’s no profit, you don’t take any money. So this will be a hit to the owners,” she said. “We take the hit more and take less money. We have no choice but to cover our costs first and take what’s left.”

The increase will also force businesses owners like Kramer to evaluate employees. Kramer said right now her restaurant often hires employees with no experience so they are given a chance to train them. But at $10 an hour, Kramer isn’t sure if it will be worth it.

The increase could also affect places like the Princeton Park District and Bureau County Metro Center, who are extremely dependent on part-time employees.

According to Elaine Russell, director of the park district, most of their part-time hiring occurs during the summer when they need outdoor workers for mowing, maintenance and counselors for summer camps, along with lifeguards for both the indoor and outdoor pools.

“With only 11 full-time employees on payroll and up to 75 part-time employees during the summer, an increase would negatively affect our expenses,” she said. “The last time there was an increase we transitioned by having full-time staff fill certain part-time positions until we were able to adjust our budget to accommodate the increase.”

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