Proposed minimum wage increase could affect border cities like Mount Carmel

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A proposed bill in Illinois could someday mean big changes for local businesses and employees in the Tri-State.

If the bill passes Illinois’ House, minimum wage would increase to $15 by 2025.

Right now, the minimum wage in Illinois $8.25/hour.

A yearly hike up to 2025 could have an even bigger effect on border communities like Mount Carmel than other, more central cities.

“As a business owner, I’m first going to look at it. The first time I have to give that increase, I’m gonna go…ughhh. I mean, that’s what you do,” says Wabash Valley College assistant business professor Dave Wilderman. He also owns a business in Mt. Carmel called Vintage Collections.

The proposed wage increase would happen in increments of about a dollar a year.

“I’m not opposed to that, I think it would have to be done somewhat gradually,” says ‘Food for Thought’ owner Rod Paille.

Business owners could raise prices to compensate for money spent on wages. That might be difficult for communities in border towns that share a workforce  with other states.

“It’s a good possibility of driving those retail customers across the river to Indiana, just because the pricing for a similar…for a same product may be higher here, because of wages,” said Mount Carmel City Clerk Rudy Witsman.
 
The proposed legislation would allow exceptions for employees under 18, restaurants and certain small businesses.

 “We have, naturally have a lot of people leaving the community, driving to either Princeton or Evansville or Vincennes, and we see it, we know it,and it’s tough to compete with,” said Witsman.

However, one person we spoke with said a wage increase might help keep him in Illinois during his job search.

“Working in another state — I had a buddy who worked over at Toyota and they took out taxes for Indiana and Illinois. So if they increase the Illinois minimum wage…it’d be a lot better,” said Zachary Clayton.

As a business owner, Wilderman says he looks at it another way.

“The people that shop with us don’t have lots and lots of money. So if you give them a little bit of money so they have a discretionary income so they can go buy something for fun, that could help us.”

No matter what side voters choose, it’s clear, this increase may not be “one size fits all.”

“I see more benefits in larger communities than in Mount Carmel, because of us being a border town…near a bridge,” said Wilderman.

The bill now needs to pass the House before landing on Governor Pritzker’s desk.

He has said he would sign it.

You can look at the bill here.

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(This story was originally published on mmmmm dd, 2017)

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