This Week in Springfield – 101-03

$15 STARTING WAGE
TOBACCO 21
BILL INTRODUCTIONS

101-03
February 8, 2019

This Week in Springfield, the Senate passed a $15 wage and the Senate Public Health Committee passed a Tobacco 21 measure.

$15 STARTING WAGE

Despite concerns by suburban and downstate legislators in particular over the impact on the state budget (over $1 billion) and the impact on suburban and downstate employers, the Senate passed a proposal to increase the Illinois starting wage to $15 over 5 years as contained in Senate Amendment #1 to Senate Bill 1 (Sen Kimberly Lightford, D- Westchester). The 39-18 vote was along strictly partisan lines and came only after Governor JB Pritzker spent 30-minutes in the Senate Democratic caucus imploring a united front for his first major policy initiative. This action comes despite two very reasonable alternatives put forward by IRMA under the belief that an increase is inevitable, everyone was genuine in their desire to turn the page on the last four-years and seek genuine compromise, and the two alternatives IRMA put forward were supported in those respective states by the same proponents who are pushing the $15 wage increase in Illinois.

IRMA first suggested following the Oregon model where a different wage would be paid in different parts of the state. For example, $15 would be paid in Chicago, a lower wage in the collar counties, and a yet lower wage downstate. The Oregon model makes the most sense for a state as economically and geographically diverse as Illinois in that no other location in Illinois enjoys the economic benefits of Chicago. Nowhere else has over 55 million tourists per year, nowhere else has millions commuting into the city center every day spending money, nowhere else has the concentration of business headquarters, and nowhere else has the concentration of wealth. However, several legislators and the Governor’s Office expressed reservations over voting for $15 for some parts of the state but not others.

As an alternative, IRMA put forward the New York model. New York increased the starting wage in New York City over 4 years. The starting wage in the two counties on Long Island and Westchester County were increased to $15 over 6 years, and the starting wage in the rest of New York over 10-12 years (increased by CPI until reaches 15). While less sensitive to the economic diversity of New York and Illinois, it is an apt example for Illinois. The city of Chicago began increasing its minimum wage in 2015. If SB 1 is enacted as is, employers in the city of Chicago will have been given 10 years to get to $15 per hour. Employers in the suburbs and downstate will only be given 5 years. It raises the question as to why suburban and downstate employers are not being given the same consideration as employers in the city of Chicago. For those who say ‘well, the city raised the wage on its own, the answer is proponents don’t get it both ways. They can’t oppose preemption and then not count the actions of the city of Chicago. Employers don’t get that luxury.

Claims that alternatives were never presented are simply false. These alternatives were provided to the Governor directly the evening of Tuesday, January 29th, the primary legislative sponsors and the proponents during a morning meeting on Thursday, January 31st, repeated during another meeting the morning of Tuesday, February 5th and shared with other legislators and legislative staff throughout the week. Clearly, given the facts noted above, there does not appear to be a genuine desire for what would otherwise be considered an easily achievable compromise.

The proponents claim that a tax credit inserted into the bill will help small business. In fact, the tax credit as proposed is inadequate to soften the size and pace of the proposed increase and applies to very few employers. The following would NOT receive the credit:

• Any employer with more than 50 full-time equivalent employees. The legislation does not state what constitutes ‘full-time” so it is impossible to accurately calculate. However, given the fact the proposal started with a firm cap at 50, we can expect a definition that keeps close to that number.

• If you are a franchisee and have more than one store OR file as part of a unitary group (e.g. you are a franchisee, run some other type of business and they file taxes together) you would not be eligible for the tax credit.

• If your average wages paid are less than the same quarter the year before, you are not eligible for the credit. For example, if you are forced to cut hours worked, lay off workers, or if workers are absent, your average wages could easily drop.

• Employers with 5 or fewer employees are eligible for a credit for a year longer than everyone else. While the proponents claim this applies to 48% of all employers, they don’t tell you that the vast majority of that 48% is comprised of employers where the only employee is the employer. According to the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES), in the City of Chicago, such businesses account for 6.6% of employers. According to the US Small Business Administration, 80% of all employers fall into this category. Therefore, 1.4% – 2.0% of employers in Illinois would qualify.

Clearly, the tax credit is nothing more than a talking point.

As passed by the Senate, SB 1 increases the starting wage as follows:

18 years and older                     Under 18 years of age*

YEAR              WAGE                      YEAR            WAGE
1/1/2020       $9.25                    1/1/2020        $8.00
7/1/2020       $10.00                  7/1/2020
1/1/2021       $11.00                                         $8.50
1/1/2022       $12.00                                         $9.25
1/1/2023       $13.00                                        $10.50
1/1/2024       $14.00                                        $12.00
1/1/2025       $15.00                                        $13.00

*If the employee who is under 18 years of age works more than 650 hours for the employer during a calendar year, then the employer must pay the full minimum wage regardless of the employee’s age.

While it looks like a six-year phase-in, it is really a five-year phase in because employers will experience a $2.75 per hour increase (33.3% increase) in the first 366-days. For an employer’s planning purposes, a year-and-one-day, is not two years. This phase-in is an average annual increase to an employer’s largest or second-largest line-item of over 16% per year for a total increase of 81.8% over 5 years.

The House Labor & Commerce Committee is scheduled to consider SB 1 on Wednesday, February 13th at 2:00 p.m. IRMA members should register their opposition by filing a slip at this link. Additionally, IRMA members are encouraged to continue to register their opposition per the action alerts IRMA has distributed.

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TOBACCO 21

SB 21 (Sen. Julie Morrison, D-Deerfield) prohibits an Illinois licensed retailer from selling tobacco products to anyone below the age of 21, but removes the penalties for the purchase, possession, selling, or consumption of tobacco for the same individuals. It completely removes the specific prohibition of the possession of tobacco products by a minor. And it only prohibits a minor from selling tobacco products, as an employee, at a licensed retailer. In fact, the only thing SB 21penalizes a minor for is using a fraudulent identification.

As a result, since the Illinois statutes would no longer penalize a minor for any of the aforementioned, SB 21 makes it “legal” for a person under the age of 21 to: (1) possess tobacco, (2) consume tobacco, (3) sell tobacco, (4) buy tobacco from an unlicensed Illinois retailer or individual, or (5) buy tobacco from a licensed out-of-state retailer or online. As such, the bill protects unlicensed, unregulated, and, untaxed individuals selling tobacco to minors while prohibiting licensed Illinois retailers from selling tobacco products to anyone below the age of 21.

SB 21 passed the Senate Public Health Committee by a partisan vote of 8-4.

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BILL INTRODUCTIONS

The Illinois General Assembly has introduced nearly 4,000 bills to date. With the bill filing deadline of February 15th quickly approach, there will likely be a large number of bills filed next week. Here are a sample of bills that were filed this week:

Check out Bag TaxSB 1240 (Sen. Terry Link, D-Gurnee) creates the Checkout Bag Tax Act and imposes a tax of $0.07 on each checkout bag used by a customer at a retail establishment in the State. The proceeds from the tax shall be distributed as follows: (1) the retailer shall retain $0.02 per bag; (2) $0.02 per bag shall be distributed to the General Revenue Fund; and (3) $0.03 per bag shall be deposited into the Checkout Bag Tax Fund.

The $.03 from in the Checkout Bag Tax Fund is then distributed to municipalities to use for funding the collection of household hazardous waste such as needles, paint, batteries and other common items such as mattresses, plastic bags, auxiliary containers, etc. Municipalities that do not already have a plastic bag ban or tax would be prohibited from instituting a ban or Chicago, Oak Park, and Evanston would be able to keep their current ordinances but could not change them unless to make them consistent with the proposed state law.

Retail DiscountHB 2079 (Rep. Will Guzzardi, D-Chicago) and SB 1132 (Sen. Omar Aquino, D-Chicago) reduces the reimbursement that is provided to retailers for collecting sales taxes on behalf of the state. It caps the amount at $1,000 per retailer per year. Unknown to most people, retailers are responsible for interpreting, administering, collecting, and remitting the occupation and use taxes also known as the sales tax. In return for the expenses that they incur during this process, retailers are allowed to retain 1.75 percent of the sales tax they collect. This is known as the retail discount. This allowance serves as a partial reimbursement. If retailers were to be fully reimbursed for their costs, independent studies conclusively demonstrate the allowance would have to be nearly 4 percent. The Illinois Department of Revenue (IDOR) retains 2 percent of the monies they collect on behalf of local governments. Additionally, while retailers subsidize the state retail sales tax collection, retailers are paying between 1.5% and 3%, plus $.10 of the sales tax directly to the banks in credit card fees. If 50% of their sales are on credit cards, that means an amount equal to between ¾% and 1.32% is paid in credit card fees on the retailer’s entire universe of sales tax collections. Therefore, credit card fees alone erase all or most of any retailer’s partial reimbursement. While IRMA is not asking that this allowance be increased, we adamantly oppose any effort to reduce or eliminate the existing allowance.

Food AllergenHB 2123 (Rep. Jonathan Carroll, D-Northbrook) requires sesame to be labeled in any food product containing sesame. It is unclear whether the bill refers to packaged food or to prepared food. Food allergen labeling is governed by the federal Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA). FALCPA keeps food allergen labeling consistent in all 50 states. As drafted, this legislation would require a different Illinois specific label for any food containing sesame sold in Illinois.

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