Quinn approves putting minimum wage question on Nov. ballot

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Governor Pat Quinn signed a bill Sunday putting the issue of raising the minimum wage on the ballot in November. (WLS)

Governor Pat Quinn signed a bill Sunday putting the issue of raising the minimum wage on the ballot in November, and Democrats hope the referendum will help that battle and increase voter turnout.

Quinn says winning the referendum is important to send a message to the state legislature, which has the power to raise the minimum wage. Sending a message is about all the referendum can do because it is non-binding. Political experts say the real motive behind the new law is about politics. Quinn wants voters to decide if the minimum wage should be raised from $8.25 to $10 an hour.

More money will make a difference for Gloria Davis and John Austin, who both work minimum-wage jobs.

"It would afford me the dignity of living in my own house," Davis said. "I move from shelter to shelter even though I get up and go to work."

"Two to three extra dollars would get me started on trying to save money as well as take care of needs," said Austin.

Quinn is counting on the minimum wage issue in his bid for re-election and said he hopes putting the referendum on the ballot will drive Democratic turnout.

"It is a chance (for) the people of Illinois to vote on an issue that affects tens of thousands of workers in our state," he said.

But only the legislature can vote to raise the minimum wage statewide. Roosevelt University political science professor Paul Green said he doubts the referendum will affect voter turnout.

"If someone's not going to vote because of the candidates that are running, why would this get them out to vote?" he asked.

Like Quinn, Democrats nationwide are hoping the minimum wage issue will turn the tide for them in November. Here in Illinois, Green says voters may think there are bigger issues to focus on.

"Since Illinois is no longer on the fiscal cliff, we are at the bottom of the cliff, we should be talking about budget and pensions. Those are the issues that count," he said.

Quinn's opponent, Republican Bruce Rauner, says he supports raising the minimum wage as part of a pro-business package that includes lower tax rates and workers comp reform. Rauner's campaign spokesperson says the federal investigation into Quinn's alleged misuse of taxpayer dollars will likely have a bigger influence on the election than a minimum wage referendum.
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