ANNAPOLIS – After some debate, the Maryland House of Delegates voted 89-46 to pass a bill to raise the statewide minimum wage to $10.10 by 2017. The legislation now heads to the Senate.
“To those deciding between keeping the lights on and putting food on the table, help is on the way,” said Delegate Dereck Davis (D-25), chair of the House Economic Matters Committee which worked on the bill. “To those seeking a hand up, and not a handout, help is on the way.”
The bill, proposed by Gov. Martin O’Malley, raises the minimum wage from its current level of $7.25 to $8.20 in Jan. 2015, $9.15 in Jan. 2016 and to $10.10 in 2017. The Economic Matters Committee stripped a provision from the original bill to index the wage for inflation after 2017.
“Raising the minimum wage makes good business sense,” O’Malley said. “When workers have more money, businesses have more customers, growing our economy in a way that works. 21 other states and the District of Columbia have a minimum wage higher than Maryland. As one of the top states for upward economic mobility, it’s time to give Maryland workers a raise. We urge the Senate to join the House — let’s work together to increase the minimum wage to $10.10.”
During the discussion on the House floor, Republican delegates spoke out against the bill because of the negative effects they say raising the minimum wage would have on small businesses. Davis said there is equal research on both sides for and against the minimum wage, but he conceded that small incremental increases may cause job loss. If the minimum wage discussion were a boxing match, he said, it would be a split decision.
Frederick County Delegate Kelly Schulz (R-4A) said raising the wage to $10.10 is not a small incremental increase and it would increase labor costs for businesses by 40 percent.
“We have never done that before,” Schulz said. “Maryland does not need to be extreme.”
Schulz cited a study conducted by George Mason University professor Stephen Fuller which showed raising the wage to $10 per hour would cause approximately 12,000 jobs to be lost.
“It means a lot to those 12,000 people,” she said. “Their wage will be zero.”
Delegate Mike Smigiel (R-36) said the state already overburdens businesses with regulations. By raising the minimum wage, he said, the state is being overly intrusive by essentially trying to control the businesses.
“This is a bad, bad, bad, bad bill,” he said.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, Prince George’s Delegate Aisha Braveboy (D-25) said she supports the bill after years of trying to raise the minimum wage. Though she is disappointed the indexing provision was removed from the bill, she believes the wage needs to be raised because it will help more than 500,000 people come closer to living a tolerable life.
“It has taken years to have the courage to pass this bill, now we have to depend on the courage of future legislators,” Braveboy said.