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Published On: 3/21/13

Minimum Wage Hike Rejected

By: Shawn J. Soper via Maryland Coast Dispatch

BERLIN -- The latest effort to significantly raise the minimum wage in Maryland died late Wednesday when the Senate Finance Committee voted 8-3 to kill the legislation.

Early on in the current General Assembly session, Senator Robert Gariagiola (D-Montgomery) and Delegate Aisha Braveboy (D-Prince George’s) joined the advocacy group Raise Maryland for a rally in Annapolis announcing proposed legislation aimed at increasing Maryland’s current minimum wage from the current $7.25 to $10 by 2015. Under the proposed legislation, the state’s minimum wage would have increased to $8.25 per hour this year before hitting $9 in 2014 and $10 in 2015. Starting in 2016, the minimum wage would be indexed, or adjusted, annually to keep up with inflation and the rising cost of living.

In addition, the proposed bill would raise the minimum wage for tipped employees, which make up a large segment of the area’s workforce, from the current 50 percent, or $3.63 per hour, to 70 percent. Several states already have higher minimum wages for tipped employees and a handful even require tipped employees to be paid the full 100 percent of the minimum wage.

While increasing the minimum wage for all employees, including a modest increase for tipped employees, was clearly a favorite among the workforce in Maryland, it could have serious implications for the business community still struggling in a staggering economy.

Senator Jim Mathias (D-38) served on the Finance Committee and was among the eight senators to vote down the propose legislation.

“The economy is still very unsettled and this would bring an additional cost to some business just struggling to get by,” he said. “This was a very important issue for our area.”

Mathias said market factors and employee demand should continue to determine what the prevailing wage should be without the state dictating mandated minimums.

“I believe in the judgment of the employer,” he said. “The most important asset for any employer is the employees and I think we need to trust employers to take care of those assets without dictating to them what the minimum wage should be.”

Delegate Mike McDermott (R-38B) said the minimum wage bill never came to a vote in the House, but he said he would have opposed the legislation.

“Using Ocean City as an example, in tough times, we don’t want to drive up the cost of doing business any more than it already has,” he said.

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