ROCKVILLE – Montgomery County Council member Marc Elrich (D-At large) said his proposed bill to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2020 is just playing catch up.
Elrich said his plan to raise the minimum wage will not lift people out of poverty but help lower income workers provide for themselves.
At the joint council committee meeting Monday, council members discussed the potential impact of increasing the County’s minimum wage again.
Though the committee decided not to vote on changing any provisions in bill 12-16, the bill is still controversial among some business owners.
Council members asked staff to clarify whether the bill will help the county’s poor.
“When I think about Alton Sterling, who is selling CDs; when I think about Eric Garner who is selling cigarettes on the street; the minimum wage doesn’t help them,” said Council member Craig Rice (D-2). “And, again, if our rational and our focus is on some of those conversations, we need to talk about employment and that how employment is going to help effect some of the people in our black community.”
At the meeting, council staff said there are conflicting studies on how raising the minimum wage affects employment in the County.
As of July 1, the County’s minimum wage rose to $10.75 per hour. It is already scheduled to increase to $11.50 per hour in 2017.
“What I don’t understand in this moment is what the negative impacts will be,” said Council member Roger Berliner (D-1). “And in any legislation, certainly of this consequence, I assume we will do a cost-benefit analysis and understand what that impact is.”
Some local business owners protested the proposed bills, criticizing the council for considering another wage increase they said they could not afford to pay their workers.
Meanwhile, low-wage workers and union representatives spoke about the struggles of the high cost of living in the County and how the current minimum wage was not enough to afford a living.
Elrich said increasing the minimum wage is a more efficient way for the County to deal with people in poverty rather than paying them welfare.
“I don’t understand why we would look at a system that requires tax payers to pay welfare to solve a problem that is caused by inadequate wages,” Elrich said.
“I mean it’s not the most efficient to do, to have government to tax everybody to pay welfare payments and then pay administration to administer a welfare system. I would rather have people just earn enough money that they didn’t need all this other stuff to do it.”
Council member George Leventhal (D-At large) said the Health and Human Services committee will meet again in July to discuss the proposed increase in the minimum wage.
If passed, the bill would raise the County’s minimum wage to $12.50 per hour in 2018, $13.75 per hour in 2019 and $15 per hour by 2020. Berliner and Rice questioned whether to delay the increase
The incremental increase allows businesses time to adjust to increase costs from the bill, according to Elrich.
Elrich’s push for $15 per hour minimum wage follows a national pattern among the country’s progressives. Washington D.C, California, New York have all passed bills to eventually raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour.
Additionally, the Democratic National Committee party platform committee included in its draft of the 2016 party platform support for increasing to the national minimum wage to $15 per hour.
“To say it doesn’t make a dramatic difference in a person’s life when you got more disposable income, that absolutely makes a difference, Elrich said. “…I’m glad that the [Democratic] Party is actually caught up where some of us have been thinking for a while.”