Going into their month-long August break, County Council members will have one main issue on their minds – whether to increase the County’s minimum wage.
With the Council waiting for a County-commissioned study to be released within about a week, Council member Marc Elrich (D-at large), introduced another bill, Bill 28-17, Tuesday to increase the County minimum wage to $15 per hour.
“Poverty is expensive and taxpayers often wind up footing the bill, and it’s not fair to ask Montgomery County taxpayers to pays subside to Wal-Mart workers,” Elrich said.
In January the County Council voted 5-4, on a bill that would have increased the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2020. But County Executive Ike Leggett vetoed the bill, leaving the council without the six votes needed to override an executive veto. Council member Hans Riemer (D-at large), George Leventhal (D-at large), Nancy Navarro (D-4) and Tom Hucker (D-5) along with Elrich voted in favor of the bill.
The bill Elrich introduced last year, would have incrementally increased the minimum wage $15 per hour by 2020, but would have given businesses with 25 employees or less until 2022 to raise their wages. The new bill Elrich introduced is mostly the same, but with a few additions which will grant exemptions to other businesses. In Bill 28-17, non-profit and employers that provide home health or community based services will be given until 2022 to raise their minimum wage to $15 per hour.
“This is our second go-around at it and we are attempting to address some of the concerns that have been raised,” Elrich said.
The four Council members who voted against the bill Roger Berliner (D-1), Sidney Katz (D-3) Craig Rice (D-2), Nancy Floreen (D-at large), said the County needed to commission the study and adjust the bill before Council members could change their minds to vote for the then.
Rice said after Elrich introduced the bill his main concern was how raising the minimum wage would affect unemployed young people who have problems getting a job at the current minimum wage.
“When it comes to ensuring that our young people, especially people of color, who represent the largest portion of our unemployment continue to be remembered when we talk about this because I continue to remind people a $15 minimum wage does not help a person that does not have a job,” Rice said.
Since Leggett vetoed the last bill in January, the Council has awaited the study, which is due to be released sometime within the next week according to the Patrick Lacefield, a spokesperson for Leggett.
The County’s current minimum wage is $11.75 per hour and is not set to scheduled to be increased again. In 2013, the Council voted to increase the minimum wage incrementally to $11.75 by 2017.
Bill 28-17 would incrementally increase the minimum wage to $12.50 per hour by 2018, $13.75 per hour by 2019 and $15 per hour by 2020 if passed. The bill also includes amendments in hopes to address Leggett’s concerns, including the so-called “off ramp” that would allow the County to delay a schedule minimum wage increase in time of an economic downturn.
When Leggett vetoed the minimum wage increase, he said he needed the Council to pass a resolution to commission a study on the economic impacts of the minimum wage, provide an exemption for small businesses, exempt youth workers and wait until 2022 to raise the minimum wage for all employers before he could change his veto.