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Rock Co. residents react to minimum-wage proposal

Published On: Feb 13 2013 06:38:43 PM CST   Updated On: Feb 13 2013 09:07:06 PM CST
JANESVILLE, Wis. -

Residents in Rock County are reacting to the proposal President Barack Obama made in his State of the Union speech to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 to $9 an hour.

Spencer Emerson was searching for job leads at the Rock County Job Center on Wednesday. For the past five years, he has supported his three children making minimum wage at Wendy's.

"I work a lot of hours, 40-plus a week, and I'm still eligible for food stamps," Emerson said. "I love my job. I just wish it paid more, because I'm a hard worker."

But the owner of Janesville's Italian House said a minimum-wage increase could force him to raise prices as much as 15 percent. He said suppliers would pass the increases on to small business owners.

"This is not the answer. This is the biggest mistake in my opinion, and I base that on the fact that I have been in business for 25 long, hard years of trying to make my business work time and time again," said Edmund Halabi, Italian House owner.

To supplement the restaurant, Halabi began catering events. He said loyal employees are the backbone of his business and all 15 of his workers make more than minimum wage.

"What am I going to give the guy who's been making $9.50 here when this new kid, a new beginner, is walking in making $9? In order for me to keep that guy who's been here for $9 an hour with me, I'm have to raise him at least $2 or $3," Halabi said.

Spencer is also supplementing his income by selling his CDs while he looks for opportunities to make more money.

"I feel like if I had an opportunity to do better, I would do better without the need of public assistance," Spencer said.

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