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Minimum Wage, Cost and Access to Birth Control Referendums, Bring Out Voters

Voters in the South Loop said Tuesday they were eager to vote for the ballot referendums raising the minimum wage and requiring employers to cover the costs of birth control in their health care plans.

Polling Place 1118 S. Michigan Ave. Photo Credit: Warner Gardner

Voters were being asked if they support an increase in the state’s $8.25-an-hour minimum wage to $10 an hour. Also on the ballot is a proposal to raise income taxes by 3 percent on incomes of $1 million a year and the mandate to cover birth control.

“I don’t know who thinks that women shouldn’t have birth control covered,” said Grace Dontil. “It shouldn’t even be a question.”

Dontil, a real estate agent, was voting Tuesday morning at the polling place at 1118 S. Michigan Ave. She said she has a health care plan that includes birth control. She said that it is essential for her and ought to be accessible to every woman.

Birth control costs about $600 a year, according to CBS Chicago.

“Even if it’s just $2 a day, that adds up in the long run,” said Dontil.

The “millionaire tax” would raise funds for education, according to the Chicago Sun-Times

“What are they going to spend all that money on anyway,” said Dan Hedeld. “The money is better spent on the schools and education anyway.”

Not everyone said they were in favor of the tax.

“I earn this money and I give plenty away to charity and other causes that I believe in. Why should I be forced to give a part of it away,” said Dave Lee.

The vote is nonbinding and simply a measure of public support. So even if it passes, it’s unlikely that the state’s millionaires will be required to pay the surcharge.

Illinois’ minimum wage is $8.25 an hour or about $17,000 per year for a full-time worker, and it is well below the annual cost of housing, health care, utilities, groceries, transportation, clothing, child care and other necessities.

Nationally, if the minimum wage had kept pace with inflation since it was first enacted, it would now be at $10.75, according to

“Eight dollars isn’t enough for me to afford everything I need and live comfortably,” said Diana Fellie.

Fellie works as a sales associate at a clothing store and said the minimum wage needs to be increased immediately.

“It’s a city, and it gets really expensive to buy anything around here. Just finding cheap groceries is tough,” Fellie added.

The race between incumbent Gov. Pat Quinn and Republican challenger Bruce Rauner is close. They have run neck-and-neck since the end of summer.

“I always seem to just hate one candidate just a little bit less, but I always go and vote,” said Jon Rein.

The last pre-election poll of likely voters, by the group Public Policy Polling, suggests the two candidates are tied at 48 percent.

The polls close at 7 p.m. Counting of early ballots and absentee ballots cannot begin until the polls are closed, so it still seems it will be a photo finish.

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