Md. Senate Panel Changes Minimum Wage Bill

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. — A Maryland Senate panel made substantial changes to a measure to raise the state’s minimum wage Wednesday, adding a provision to include tens of millions of dollars over several years to keep the salaries of people who work with the developmentally disabled above the minimum wage.

The Senate Finance Committee voted 7-4 for an amended bill already passed by the House of Delegates. The changes create some differences lawmakers will have to work out before Monday’s adjournment to get the measure to Gov. Martin O’Malley, who has made the bill a priority this session.

Senators changed how increases will be phased in over several years, delaying the biggest hike to July 2018, instead of January 2017. The minimum wage would rise from the current $7.25 an hour to $8.00 in January 2015. It would go up to $8.25 in July 2015, $8.75 in July 2016, $9.25 in July 2017 and $10.10 in July 2018.

The Senate committee also decided to keep the law unchanged for tipped workers. Gov. Martin O’Malley wanted to increase the cash wage rate for people who work for tips from 50 percent to 70 percent of the minimum wage. The House decided to freeze the minimum wage for tipped workers at $3.63 an hour.

One of the biggest changes, however, is the provision to increase state payments to community-based employees who work with the developmentally disabled. The state provides wages to the workers, although they are hired by third-party agencies. The workers want to continue to make 35 percent more than the current minimum wage of $7.25.

Under the bill, the governor would include 4 percent more money in the budget next year for the community service providers, and 3.5 percent more would be added each year through 2018. It would add up to roughly $30 million added on for each of the years.

The Senate Budget and Taxation Committee also will need to sign off on the bill to send it to the Senate floor.

(© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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