Splurging for a cheese toastie might not seem like much of a sacrifice. Yet, Gov. Pat Quinn is trying to show this week that paying $5.55 for a lunch that included a grilled cheese sandwich and fries is a big deal to some, particularly those trying to live off minimum wage. Quinn visited Debbie's Diner in Decatur as part of his effort to raise support for increasing the state's minimum wage to $10 an hour from $8.25. He is trying not to spend more than $79 for the week, which is the average amount someone working full time on the minimum wage in Illinois earns per week after housing costs, transportation and taxes. Quinn did leave a tip for the waitress at the restaurant but said it wasn't going to be much as he was trying to keep his budget on track.
Republicans, including State Sen. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, weren't amused by Quinn's tour around the state. Rose, who is supporting Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner, said Quinn is focusing on the wrong issue. Instead of trying to raise the minimum wage, Rose said Quinn should be finding ways to improve the state's business climate. Attracting higher paying jobs with benefits provided will help more than relying on a minimum wage increase, Rose said. Among the ways Rose said the state's business climate can be improved is by addressing issues with workers compensation.
Quinn isn't alone is trying to draw attention to the minimum wage. The issue is increasingly being talked about across the country. Rose considers it should be more of a federal issue than having states compete against each other by setting different rates. Nevertheless, other politicians have taken up similar challenges to what Quinn is doing this week. In one attempt, Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland ran out of money when he tried to live in July on a minimum wage budget.
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The attention isn't limited to politicians. Fast food workers across the country went on strike Thursday to show support for raising their wages to $15 an hour. Rallies in more than 100 cities were getting noticed as major chains including McDonald's, Burger King and Wendy's were affected. The focus, however, seemed to turn toward arrests being made as protesters engaged in acts of civil disobidience.
The minimum wage issue, at least in Illinois, is bound to draw more attention before November. That's when voters will be asked to decide in a ballot referendum whether the minimum wage should be increased. It's also when they'll decide whether they want to let Quinn keep his job or replace him with Rauner. The Nov. 4 election is now less than two months away.