Maryland Senate approves increasing minimum wage to $10.10 by July 2018


Rebecca Pentz is a mother of four who works part-time at the Dollar Tree as a stocker. If Maryland were to increase its minimum wage in the coming years -- the highest legislative priority of Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) in his final months in office -- it would be felt in a number of ways by those working in the Carroll Island shopping center in the blue-collar town of Middle River. (Photo by Doug Kapustin/For The Washington Post) (Doug Kapustin/For The Washington Post)

The Maryland Senate voted Saturday morning to gradually increase the minimum wage over the next four years, reaching $10.10 by July 2018.

The legislation, which passed on a 34 to 13 vote, still needs final approval from the House of Delegates before Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) can sign it into law. That’s expected to happen before the General Assembly session ends Monday night.

Increasing the minimum wage has been O’Malley’s top priority in his final legislative session, although he has seen his original proposal dragged out and loaded with exemptions.

The legislation approved by senators Saturday agrees to increase the minimum to $10.10, but not until July 2018, two years later than O’Malley had proposed.The delay is aimed at giving businesses more time to adjust.

It also freezes the base wage for tipped workers at $3.63 per hour, which is 50 percent of the federal minimum wage but not the proposed state wage. O’Malley had proposed increasing that base wage to 70 percent of the state’s minimum wage, which eventually could have been more than $7 per hour.

Businesses would also be allowed to pay a lower training wage — 85 percent of the state minimum wage — to workers under the age of 20 for their first six months. And some businesses are set to be exempt from paying the full higher state minimum: seasonal amusement parks, cafes and restaurants with annual income below $400,000 and the state’s one drive-in movie theater.

State senators spent several hours Friday afternoon trying to further change the legislation.

Sen. David R. Brinkley (D-Frederick) suggested delaying the increase even longer, while Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. (D-Montgomery) suggested speeding up implementation. There were also calls from Republicans to remove exemptions or add more, while Democrats asked to remove the training wage or looked to restore provisions from O’Malley’s original proposal. Sen. Paul G. Pinsky (D-Prince George’s) proposed continuing to increase the minimum wage after it hits $10.10 and increasing the base wage for tipped workers such as waiters, who he said are predominantly African American women.

None of the 18 proposed amendments on Friday passed, along with six more Saturday.

Jenna Johnson is a political reporter who is covering the 2016 presidential campaign.

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