Maryland Advances Bill For a $15 Minimum Wage in Six Years

By: Jaisal Noor

Maryland’s General Assembly advanced a bill to increase the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour, but critics say it’s been severely watered down.

The compromised bill passed the Maryland’s legislature with a veto-proof majority. The House of Delegates approved the bill by a vote of 93-41 on Wednesday. The Senate passed the bill 32-13. It has now been sent to the desk of Republican Governor Larry Hogan, who has staunchly opposed the measure.

The proposal would raise the state’s hourly minimum wage from $10.10, to $15 by 2025. Small businesses would reach $15 by 2026, but the increase would not apply to workers who earn tips.

“The Maryland legislature recognized that we need to do better by working families in Maryland and raise the wage floor,”Ricarra Jones of the Fight for $15 Coalition said in a press release. “We are thrilled Maryland is joining other states that are fighting for fair pay so that hard-working residents don’t have to continue to struggle to support their children while working several jobs. We hope Governor Hogan does not turn his back on the working class and signs this bill.”

The original bills, introduced by Senator Cory McCray and Delegate Diana M. Fennell, would have raised the wages for all workers to $15 by 2023, regardless if they worked for small businesses or made a tipped wage. Subsequent increases would have been tied to the inflation index.

Maryland’s costs of living are some of the highest in the nation. According to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Living Wage Calculator, a single adult in Maryland needs to make $15.10 per hour to support themselves. That number jumps to $29.54 for a single adult with a child.

Speaking in Annapolis on Monday, Hogan said the proposal would “cost us jobs, make us incapable with competing with other states in the region, and could devastate the economy.”

“It’s estimated this action would result in the elimination of 99,00 jobs, for the very people who desperately need them the most, with a loss of $61 billion,” he said, citing a report by the lobby group National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB)

“It should surprise exactly no one that the NFIB would claim that a minimum wage increase will kill jobs,” economist David Cooper of the Economic Policy Institute said in an email. “They have said the same thing every time a minimum wage increase of any size has been proposed anywhere. Opponents of higher minimum wages have made this same claim for 80 years, but it’s been proven wrong repeatedly.”

Seattle became the first city to adopt a $15 hourly minimum wage in 2018, and recent analysis shows that since the change was implemented employment in food service has increased. And a Sept. 2018 study by University of California, Berkeley’s Center on Wage and Employment Dynamics found that when the minimum wage surpassed $10 hourly in six cities, low wage workers received more money overall, and overall rates of employment did not decrease significantly.

Economists have found raising the minimum wage would have other benefits, as well. Higher wages can increase job retention and reduce the number of working people relying on government assistance. Higher wages can also increase spending and stimulate the economy overall.

There are over half a million low-wage workers, 9 in 10 are over the age of 20, and about one third of that number have children, according to data compiled by the Economic Policy Institute. A 2018 United Way report found more than one third of Maryland residents are struggling to afford basic needs—a number that remains largely unchanged over the past eight years.

The National Employment Law Project, who advocated for the measure, say the bill comes as part of a nationwide movement for increased wages. “Maryland becoming the sixth state to adopt the $15 minimum wage—and the third just this year—shows the momentum of the Fight for $15 movement across the country,” they said in a statement.

They acknowledge the bill is imperfect. “Unfortunately the current bill fails to address the tipped subminimum wage and indexing,” they said.

Still, the bill’s passage through the General Assembly is a cause for celebration. “The fight in Maryland really highlighted in particular that $15 is the minimum needed to survive,” they said.

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Jaisal is currently the Democracy Initiative Manager at the Solutions Journalism Network and is a former TRNN host, producer, and reporter. He mainly grew up in the Baltimore area and studied modern history at the University of Maryland, College Park. Before joining TRNN, he contributed print, radio, and TV reports to Free Speech Radio News, Democracy Now! and The Indypendent. Jaisal's mother has taught in the Baltimore City Public School system for the past 25 years. Follow him on Twitter @jaisalnoor.