Say what you will about the latest billionaire governor of Illinois, he’s very generous. At least when it comes to spending other peoples’ money.
Earlier this week, J.B. Pritzker signaled he would sign a bill raising the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025. That’s quite a hike from the current minimum in the Land of Lincoln, which stands at $8.25.
Will that increase be good news for senior living workers? For those who get to keep their jobs and hours, perhaps. But it certainly isn’t going to do senior living operators any favors.
Now you might think that in a state with more than $100 billion in unmet pension obligations, finding new ways to make things worse might not be the best way to kick off a new administration. But should you be thinking along those lines, it just reveals what a naïve rube you must be.
Nor is Illinois in a vacuum. A labor-backed campaign now sweeping across the nation is called the Fight for $15. You can probably guess what the fight is all about. And it appears to be gaining traction in liberal-leaning states such as Illinois, California, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York.
It’s not hard to see why such a push has its supporters. Let’s face it, the current federal minimum wage is inadequate. That is, unless you’d like to live below the poverty line.
But here’s the rub: Raising that relatively puny rate puts tremendous pressure on low-margin business that are barely scraping by. Sadly, that includes quite a few senior living communities. As a practical matter, a mandate that could nearly double pay obligations will force many employers to cut hours or lay off workers. Or go out of business.
There really is no pain-free way to resolve this matter.
And to be fair to Pritzker, he counted on the labor vote to oust the state’s former billionaire governor, Bruce Rauner. So it wasn’t a complete shock to anyone who has been paying attention when he recently tweeted:
“Whether you’re a home healthcare provider in McLeansboro or a janitor in Rockford, hardworking men and women across Illinois deserve a raise and will get one.”
That’s true as far as it goes. What’s also true is that more of those hardworking men and women just might find themselves out of work.