Md. Panel Keeps Minimum Wage Statewide; Cuts Index to Inflation
ANNAPOLIS, Md. — A panel of Maryland lawmakers voted Monday to increase the state’s minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 an hour over three years, but lawmakers stripped out a proposal to index future increases to inflation.
They also delayed when the hikes would take effect incrementally by six months. The House Economic Matters Committee voted 13-8 for a bill that keeps an exemption for restaurants and bars that make less than $250,000 a year from paying minimum wage.
The committee also decided to freeze the minimum wage for tipped workers at $3.63 an hour and to require employers to make up the difference, if employees did not make enough in tips to meet the new minimum wage rates. The change sets a fixed rate instead of a percentage. When the measure was introduced, it would have increased the cash wage rate for tipped workers from 50 percent to 70 percent of the minimum wage.
The committee also delayed when the wage would increase from July 1 to Jan. 1 in the next three years. The minimum wage would rise to $8.20 on Jan. 1, under the changes in the measure. It would then increase to $9.15 on Jan. 1, 2016, and $10.10 on Jan. 1, 2017.
The panel decided to maintain a statewide minimum wage increase and rejected a proposal to create a two-tiered system that would allow smaller counties with a lower cost of living to have less of a minimum wage hike. The measure does not affect changes made by Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, where local officials already have voted to raise the minimum wage in those jurisdictions to $11.50 by 2017.
“I think it’s best that we set a floor … whatever that may be, we set a floor, and if the counties choose to exceed it, they have that ability,” said Del. Dereck Davis, a Prince George’s County Democrat who chairs the committee.
Supporters who say the current minimum wage is too low contend the increase will help the economy by providing people with more money to spend. Some also blamed gridlock in the federal government for failing to raise the federal minimum wage.
“Our current minimum wage is a disgrace, and what we are saying in this room tonight is quite simply that we are not going to continue to wallow in the paralysis that is our federal government,” said Del. Benjamin Kramer, D-Montgomery.
But critics contend the measure will create job losses, particularly jobs for younger workers.
“This is a radical piece of legislation in my opinion, and it’s going to have immediate and severe economic consequences,” said Del. Steve Schuh, R-Anne Arundel.
Davis said he believed the full House of Delegates would take up the bill on Wednesday. The House is taking the Legislature’s first action on the measure, which is a priority of Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley’s this legislative session.
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