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Voters to weigh in on minimum wage

Advisory question will be on your Nov. 4 ballot

Illinois voters will have the opportunity to voice their opinion on whether the state should raise its minimum wage.

Gov. Pat Quinn has signed House Bill 3814 which places an advisory question on the Nov. 4 ballot asking if the state’s minimum wage for those over the age of 18 should be raised to $10 by Jan. 1, 2015. Currently, Illinois’ minimum wage is $8.25.

On Friday, Bureau County Clerk Kami Hieronymus said the advisory referendum is just a way for legislators to get public opinion on an issue. Another action would be required by the legislators to approve a minimum wage increase.

The advisory referendum must be approved by a simple majority of the voters. If the advisory referendum would be approved, then the proponents of the increase would use that show of public support to further their argument for the reasons why the minimum wage should be increased, Hieronymus said.

However, if the advisory referendum would fail, and even by a large margin, the legislators could still go ahead and vote to approve a minimum wage increase. A binding referendum would not be needed.

“It falls to the legislators to make that decision,” Hieronymus said.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor website, minimum wage and overtime premium pay standards apply to non-supervisory, non-farm private sector employment under state and federal laws. All states must meet the federal wage baseline of $7.25 for workers covered under the Fair Labor and Standards Act.

The state minimum wage rate requirements, or lack thereof, are controlled by legislative activities within the individual states. Federal minimum wage law supersedes state minimum wage laws where the federal minimum wage is greater. In those states where the state minimum wage is greater, then the state minimum wage prevails.

According to the Department of Labor, four states have a minimum wage set lower than the federal minimum wage. Twenty-two states, plus Washington D.C., have minimum wage rates set higher than the federal minimum wage. Nineteen states have the same minimum wage requirement as the federal minimum wage requirement. Five states do not have an established minimum wage requirement.

Illinois is one of 10 states, plus the District of Columbia, to have a minimum wage in the $8 wage. Those other states include California, Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Nevada. (Nevada’s minimum wage is $8.25 without health benefits or $7.25 with health benefits.)

On the higher end of the scale, the state of Washington has a minimum wage of $9.32, and Oregon has a minimum wage of $9.10.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 38 states have considered minimum wage bills during the 2014 session.

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