Legislation to increase Maryland’s minimum wage to $10.10 by 2018 is now ready for Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) to sign into law following a final vote by the Maryland House of Delegates on Monday.
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 House voted 87 to 47 on Monday to accept additional changes to the legislation made by the Senate over the weekend.
President Obama has encouraged state and local lawmakers to increase their minimum wage to $10.10, and Connecticut was the first state to do so by passing legislation last month that will increase the minimum wage to $10.10 by Jan. 1, 2017. Maryland will take a year and a half longer, getting to $10.10 by July 1, 2018. The delay is aimed at giving businesses more time to adjust.
Obama applauded O’Malley and lawmakers for “leading by example,” and said in a statement on Monday that he hopes Congress will follow that example.
“Maryland’s important action is a reminder that many states, cities and counties — as well as a majority of the American people — are way ahead of Washington on this crucial issue,” Obama said in the statement.
Marylanders can expect to see the first increase, to $8 per hour, on Jan. 1. It will then increase to $8.25 per hour in July 2015, $8.75 per hour in July 2016 and $9.25 per hour in July 2017. The last increase, to $10.10, will come by July 2018. It is not set to grow from there, even though O’Malley had originally proposed to have it continue to grow with the rate of inflation.
The statewide legislation 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 age 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.
“We worked hard to bring people together and forge the consensus necessary to make this important progress possible,” O’Malley said in a statement Monday. “I commend the General Assembly for giving so many Maryland families the raise they deserve.”
Heading into the vote, several House Republicans criticized the legislation and said that it will result in fewer jobs in the state and an increase in prices. House Minority Leader Nicholaus R. Kipke (R-Anne Arundel) called the legislation “extreme,” while other Republicans called it “radical” and “socialist.”
“You might feel good today that you did a good thing if you vote for this,” said Del. Andrew A. Serafini (R-Washington). “But the reality is that in the long-run, it will hurt jobs.”
Del. Dereck E. Davis (D-Prince George’s), chairman of the House Economic Matters Committee, defended the wage increase and pointed out that it will take “four and one-quarter years from now” to get to the full $10.10, at which point the federal government might have already increased the federal minimum wage.
“If not now, when? When is a good time?” Davis said. “Ultimately, the time is now. To raise the minimum wage, the time is now.”