State of the State speeches by governors are a time to recall where the state was a year ago and to set goals for the future. Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn did both on Feb. 6. Here are our thoughts on the ideas he presented:
CHEERS to the governor once again mentioning the need for an open primary system in Illinois, where a record of your primary votes can hound you if you pursue government employment.
State law requires voters to declare which party they belong to when voting in a partisan primary. Political bosses have used them to determine who is a loyal party member when they award government jobs.
The open primary is one of the rare times when we will argue against a record being open to the public.
We have scrutinized candidates’ primary voting records for stories, so this is a newsgathering sacrifice for the news media. The ability to pull a primary ballot that can’t be used against you later should be part of America’s most basic promise of free elections.
For generations, Springfield and Chicago government workers, in particular, were subject to examinations of their voting records when applying for a job. They often made sure to vote in the partisan primary of the party in power to curry favor with the party hacks who were their bosses.
While abuse of government workers’ voting records initially led to this issue being on the table, it’s also an important one for the general public. The days where vast swaths of the electorate are party loyalists is over. People want to be able to choose the best candidates.
While simply getting an open primary where a voter can vote among all of the candidates in the party primary would be a start, Bill Daley, a potential candidate for governor, talked of doing away with party primaries altogether and instead having all the candidates run in a field, with the top two finishers advancing to the general election. There is merit in that suggestion as well.
JEERS to the governor’s suggestion that the state’s minimum wage should rise from $8.25 to $10 an hour, which would be the highest wage in the nation. It’s not that we don’t believe wages, which have been stagnant at nearly all income levels except the top, should rise. The fact that the nation’s corporations are sitting on trillions in cash while not hiring is quite vexing.
But using the minimum wage is a blunt-force tool — one we believe will do greater harm to small businesses that hire young people for entry-level jobs than it will siphon cash from those very profitable corporations and deposit it into their workers’ pockets.
A $10 minimum wage also would put Illinois at a competitive disadvantage with surrounding states at a time when Illinois’ unemployment rate continues to dog the state and workers’ compensation reforms aimed at reducing our competitive disadvantage haven’t worked as advertised — yet. All of the states surrounding Illinois set their minimum wages at the federal level — $7.25 per hour. Quinn needs to state why he thinks increasing the minimum wage would create jobs, which the governor told us was his top priority when he was re-elected in 2010.
Our country needs to start grappling with the increasing distance between high-income earners and the middle class. It’s a national problem that Illinois is not going to solve by jacking its minimum wage up to an even higher level than that of its neighbors.
CHEERS to the governor’s remarks on the need for more gun control measures. While there may be merit to an assault weapons ban, it should not be Quinn’s top priority. The definition of assault weapons is bound to be too squishy and filled with loopholes. Nearly every gun sold today is semi-automatic.
That’s why banning the sale and manufacture of high-capacity magazines that contain more than 10 bullets and enacting stricter background checks are far more important measures that could prevent or reduce the loss of life in any future mass shooting.