Illinois lawmakers must work with -- not against -- Illinois businesses
As we all know, the coronavirus dealt an impossible set of circumstances to our businesses.
Here in Illinois, the monthslong lockdowns proved to be too much for many small businesses to handle, resulting in the closure of thousands of local shops. As for the businesses that were able to remain open and functional, the worst may be behind us, but we're still feeling the effects of the 2020 lockdowns, and it remains unclear when we'll be able to feel stable and secure again.
Adjusting to our new "normal" has involved navigating our way through complex COVID-19 restrictions that seem to change every day, as well as the ongoing purchasing of safety equipment and supplies that business owners need in order to keep their employees and customers healthy and safe.
This set of circumstances is less than ideal, to say the least. Rather than taking the proper steps to try and alleviate some of this hardship, Illinois lawmakers have done the opposite. Now, in addition to COVID-19-related concerns and costs, Illinois business owners are forced to suffer more consequences of lawmakers' recent anti-business decisions, piling on additional, unnecessary costs and requirements.
Recently, the Illinois General Assembly pushed through HB 3360, a piece of legislation that will unfairly penalize the hardworking employers and business owners of our great state with egregious penalties, including significantly increased litigation costs. Now, as we deal with the financial distress that COVID-19 caused, we have to worry about being hit with a frivolous lawsuit, which -- thanks to HB 3360 -- would result in litigation fees so large it could shut down any Illinois small business in a heartbeat.
Additionally, the new year brought with it another minimum wage increase in Illinois, which means struggling business owners must pay even more for labor in 2021. While the federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, the minimum wage in Illinois is now $11 an hour and will increase by $1 an hour each year until 2025 when the minimum wage in Illinois will be $15 an hour.
This huge increase in the cost of labor, which state lawmakers and the governor approved in 2019, is exacerbated by the fact that four of the five neighboring states to Illinois follow the federal $7.25 an hour minimum wage. This puts Illinois business owners at a huge cost disadvantage with competitors in the other Midwest states who spend much less on labor.
And we can't forget about Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who, during the early days of the pandemic, attempted to decouple the state from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. He fought tooth and nail to effectively eliminate the CARES Act's tax benefits for business losses. He did this at the very point in time when businesses were experiencing some of the worst of their COVID-19 suffering.
Yet, Pritzker wanted to implement a massive tax increase on them as they fought just to stay afloat. It's truly a blessing that he failed in these efforts, but it did show us Pritzker's true, anti-business, colors.
When our business community loses, all Illinoisans lose. I urge Illinois lawmakers to recognize the damage that has been done. With these surges in costs, Illinois businesses suffer, making our state even more noncompetitive with other states.
This year, I ask that our lawmakers work with -- not against -- businesses. Together, we can accomplish a shared goal of creating more good jobs for everyone. The economy will improve faster, our business community will thrive, and more Illinoisans will find employment.
• Zach Mottl is chief alignment officer of Atlas Tool and Die Works in Lyons.