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Md. Senate Advances Minimum Wage Increase

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. — The Maryland Senate advanced a measure to raise the state’s minimum wage on Friday, paving the way for a vote as soon as this weekend.

The Senate rejected 17 proposed changes to the bill, as supporters tried to make it go further to help low-income workers and opponents hoped to at least delay increases from taking effect.

With time running short on the Legislature’s 90-day session, supporters of raising the wage expressed doubt the bill could pass the Maryland General Assembly with significant changes beyond those already made by the Senate Finance Committee. A vote could come as soon as Saturday, when the Senate will convene to keep working as Monday’s midnight adjournment nears.

The bill would raise the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $8.00 in January. 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.

Sen. Paul Pinsky, D-Prince George’s, tried to restore an index to make the minimum wage rise automatically in the future to keep up with inflation. Pinsky noted the Senate agreed to do as much two weeks ago for the state’s wealthy, when it voted to gradually recouple the estate tax with the federal government’s estate tax, which rises to keep up with inflation.

“What’s good for the goose — the golden goose — should also be good for the gander,” Pinsky said.

But even Democrats who supported the idea urged senators to reject the amendment out of concern it could not pass the House, which took the indexing for inflation backed by Gov. Martin O’Malley out of the legislation.

“I was just going suggest also colleagues that we don’t want the perfect to become the enemy of the possible, that we’re late in session,” said Sen. Dolores Kelley, D-Baltimore County. “We’ve got to pass budgets, but we don’t have to pass any policy bill, no matter how laudable, and I, too, am concerned that something this significant to be sent back the House seeking a concurrence at this late point is probably going to kill this bill.”

The bill also freezes tipped workers’ minimum wage at $3.63 and allows employers to pay employees who are 19 or younger 85 percent of the minimum wage for the first six months.

The measure includes a four-year 3.5 percent mandated increase for community service providers who work with the developmentally disabled to keep their pay above minimum wage.

The House already has passed a version of the legislation. The Senate has delayed the implementation of a $10.10 wage by more than a year. The Senate also added the pay raise for people who work with the developmentally disabled.

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

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