Gansler, Mizeur say they would seek a better minimum-wage bill for Maryland workers


Del. Heather R. Mizeur and Attorney General Doulgas F. Gansler embrace after a debate last week. Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown looks on. (Photo by Matt McClain, The Washington Post)

Two Democratic candidates for Maryland governor said Monday that, if elected, they would seek changes to the minimum-wage legislation passed last month by the General Assembly to make it more favorable to workers.

Speaking at a candidates forum, both Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler (D) and Del. Heather R. Mizeur (D-Montgomery) said they would like to speed up the timetable in the bill that gradually raises Maryland’s minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 by 2018.

Both also said they would like to see the rate continue to rise based on inflation after it reaches $10.10 and that they would do more to help tipped workers, including restaurant servers.

The campaign of Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown (D) had no immediate response. Brown, Gansler and Mizeur appeared separately at the forum in Ellicott City, which was sponsored by several affordable housing groups, and did not hear one another’s remarks.

Under the bill as originally introduced this year by Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), the state’s minimum wage would have increased in several steps to $10.10 by mid-2016. The legislature extended that timetable to give businesses more time to adjust to the higher payroll costs they will incur.

Gansler said Monday that, if elected, he would introduce a new bill that would restore the timetable O’Malley originally sought.

“I’m convinced from talking to people this does not hurt businesses,” Gansler said.

Mizeur also complained about the pace of increases under the bill that passed on the final day of the 90-day legislative session last month.

“We will see the next governor run for re-election before we even get to $10.10 an hour,” Mizeur told the audience. As a delegate, she voted for the bill.

As a candidate for governor, Mizeur has continued to push a plan that would raise the minimum wage to $16.70 by 2022.

At the forum, both she and Gansler voiced support for “indexing” the minimum wage to reflect inflation into the indefinite future — another provision in O’Malley’s bill that was changed by lawmakers.

Gansler and Mizeur also both said they would seek a more generous arrangement for tipped workers.

Under current law, employers must pay tipped workers a base rate of $3.63 an hour — 50 percent of the standard minimum wage. If a worker’s total pay, including tips, does not reach $7.25 an hour, the employer is required to make up the difference.

O’Malley proposed increasing the base pay to 70 percent of the standard minimum wage. Instead, the legislature froze the base pay at $3.63 an hour.

Monday’s forum also included Cindy Walsh, a Democratic candidate for governor from Baltimore, and Charles County businessman Charles Lollar, one of four Republican candidates seeking the GOP nomination.

John Wagner has covered Maryland government and politics for The Post since 2004.
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