( Springfield, IL – There are thousands of workers in Illinois working today for far less than the state’s required $8.25 an hour minimum wage.

But these are not poor laborers trapped by tyrannical bosses. In many cases they are young, well-educated professionals who are happy to have their jobs.

“There no doubt are some people early in their careers who are on salary instead of paid by the hour and who are lucky if they make minimum wage when the long hours they put in are considered,” said Steven Stanek a research fellow at the Heartland Institute. “Young lawyers spring to mind.”

But that’s just one side of the coin.

“For more than 95 percent of workers, the minimum wage is moot because they already earn more than the minimum,” Stanek noted.

Illinois’ minimum wage, and what the wage should be, has become the topic de jour in the race for governor.

Multimillionaire GOP frontrunner Bruce Rauner has said in the past he would lower Illinois’’ minimum wage by a dollar an hour to be more in line with the federal minimum wage.

Rauner has since backtracked.

“The real answer is a booming economy and a great educational system and vocational programs. A higher minimum wage can hurt the very people it’s designed to help. It hurts small businesses,” he said.

Illinois’ incumbent Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn has long said he wants to raise the minimum wage, pushing for $10 an hour.

Stanek said it is laughable to see politicians demand a higher wage.

“The big irony in the minimum wage discussion is that some of the loudest advocates for a higher minimum routinely hire people to work for nothing,” Stanek said. “The White House, Congress and legislatures around the country are crawling with unpaid interns. These unpaid interns have taken the jobs because they think they’ll look good on a resume, get their foot in certain doors, or teach them skills to later get paying jobs.”

Stanek said as long as workers are willing to work for less than the minimum wage, government should not stop them.

One of Rauner’s GOP opponents, state Sen. Kirk Dillard, R-Hinsdale, seems to agree.

“I am, what I guess is known as a Jeffersonian free-market principle guy,” Dillard said. “And I believe the marketplace sets everything, including the minimum wage.”

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