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A new study contends hiking the minimum wage to $15 an hour will have unintended consequences, namely job losses.

That’s a concern to some Jacksonville-area business, too.

The Illinois minimum wage is set to gradually raise each year — twice in 2020 — until it is at $15 an hour in 2025. It is $8.25 an hour now and will go to $9.25 by Jan. 1 and to $10 on July 1.

A similar measure passed by the U.S. House of Representatives — the Raise the Wage Act — would increase the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2024.

A study this month by the pro-limited-government think tank the Competitive Enterprise Institute argues that raising the wage would have consequences for workers and small businesses in ways the author, Ryan Young, believes have been under-discussed.

The study by Young, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, offers three reasons for opposing the minimum wage hikes: the negative economic tradeoffs for low-wage workers are roughly equal to the benefits; large corporations with higher wages can use their ability to offer high wages against smaller businesses; and the hikes take the choices away from workers who may prefer pay in non-taxable forms, such as tips, insurance and discounts.

Young said many opponents of raising the minimum wage focus solely on job loss that could be caused by the increase — such as a Congressional Budget Office study finding that a wage increase to $15 an hour would cost 1.3 million jobs nationwide.

According to Young, employers are more likely to pursue tradeoffs to cover the additional costs.

“Firing somebody is a last-resort option,” Young said. “A lot of employers will seek tradeoffs that will cover the increased wage costs and not fire people.”

Employers are likely to cut the hours their employees work after a minimum wage hike, Young said. One example, according to Young, was three quarters of New York City restaurants reducing the hours of their employees after the city raised its minimum wage to $15 an hour.

Young’s study also contends the urban-rural divide in wage labor will lead to a minimum wage hike negatively impacting rural areas more than large cities. Cook County’s minimum wage is already higher than in southern and central Illinois, for example.

“For people who suffer the adverse consequences … they’re going to see much more severe tradeoffs,” Young said. “Those kinds of things will happen more when you jump from $8 or $9 to $15 than than they will when you jump from $12 or $13.”

Business owners in the Jacksonville area have also expressed their concerns about the minimum wage increase, according to Jacksonville Area Chamber of Commerce President Lisa Musch. She said employers are concerned about the wage hike’s effect on payroll and the benefits they can offer if they want to expand employment.

Mush said the chamber’s human resources roundtable has been discussing how businesses can effectively meet the change.

“There’s just a lot of concern across the board on a number of different businesses as to how this will impact their hiring,” she said.

However, while some business owners acknowledge that the wage hike will affect the amount of hours their employees can work for, they believe an increase to the minimum wage is still essential for low-income workers.

Jessica Gale, owner of Our Town Books in Jacksonville, said the hikes may lead to her cutting staff hours, but that she does not expect it to greatly affect her business — which already has a small staff, with Gale working most of the time.

She also believes a higher minimum wage is important for workers.

“I’ve worked so many low-income jobs in my life and with the income inequality there is in the country I think a living wage is a great idea,” Gale said.

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