Local employers react to proposed minimum wage hike

By Audrey Williams

February 6, 2013 Updated Feb 6, 2013 at 11:56 PM CDT

CENTRAL ILLINOIS -- During his State of the State address Wednesday, Governor Pat Quinn proposed that, over the next four years, the state raise the minimum wage to at least $10 an hour.

"Nobody in Illinois should work 40 hours a week and live in poverty," said Governor Quinn.

Director of Parks and Recreation for Fon Du Lac Park District, Brad Smith, hopes lawmakers think long and hard about the idea before moving forward.

He said the park district has more than 200 seasonal employees who make minimum wage or slightly more. More than 150 of those employees work at Splashdown water park.

Smith said if minimum wage goes up, the park district will have to increase prices across the board to make up for it.

"We're talking about up to $1.75 an hour more, when this is completed. We have an average of 35 employees, lifeguard employees, on the deck at one time, so it's going to be a substantial increase in our payroll," said Smith.

Meanwhile, Frank Abdnour, owner of the Spotted Cow, said this increase will make it harder for small businesses to compete.

He said of his 20 employees, about 15 are high school or college-aged and make minimum wage or slightly higher. To offset the payroll increase, Abdnour said he would likely have to raise prices and maybe eliminate a job or two.

"On top of escalating fuel costs and escalating food costs, it's just another hurdle that you need to deal with. Along with rising workers' comp insurance and Illinois is one of the highest workers' comp insurance states there are too," said Abdnour.

Spotted Cow employee Abby Fabish is a college student and makes slightly more than minimum wage. She said she sees both pros and cons to an increase.

"I don't know if that would be a good idea because then the cost of living might go up, so maybe not so high, I don't know. I feel like it would be a big impact because it's a large jump from where it is right now," said Fabish.

Leaders of both the Illinois Chamber of Commerce and the Illinois Retail Merchants Association say they oppose the measure, as well.

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