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In Prince George’s, Baker signs minimum wage bill, raising hourly rate to $11.50 by 2017

Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) on Tuesday signed into law a bill raising the county’s minimum wage to $11.50 by 2017.

At a ceremony Tuesday morning where he was joined by members of the Prince George’s County Council, Baker said increasing the hourly rate was “the right thing to do” and “essential to meeting basic needs.”

“The goal we achieve by signing this bill today is to ensure that the people of Prince George’s County receive fair compensation for their work so that they can more comfortably provide for themselves and their families,” said Baker, in his prepared remarks.

Some county leaders said the bill signing marks a significant step to help address poverty and serve the county’s working poor. They said they hope it also sends a message to legislators in Annapolis and Washington to act on increasing the current state and federal minimum of $7.25.

“Working with the District of Columbia and Montgomery we are taking the lead in this effort, but this really isn’t finished. We need Annapolis and Congress to act so that American across the country can have a better shot at the American dream,” said the new County Council Chairman Mel Franklin (D-Upper Marlboro). “We know that raising the minimum wage isn’t going to end poverty but what it would do is give people more of a chance to make it in our country if they are willing to try.”

The county’s action to raise the wage was part of a collaborative effort between officials from Prince George’s, Montgomery counties and the District to address widening income inequality. Montgomery approved its version of the bill on Nov. 26 and the District voted on a similar proposal Tuesday.

Baker said Tuesday that he felt comfortable signing the bill because of the regional partnership. He had said before that he favored leaving the matter to the Maryland General Assembly for statewide action,

County administration officials said they continue to study the impact the increase could have on the county’s competitiveness, particularly in areas like National Harbor, a growing employment hub for the county located just a few miles from the Northern Virginia border.

“Even in signing, competitiveness remains important to me and this county,” Baker said. “We are focused on expanding our commercial tax-base and I am confident that we can make this a win-win situation for everyone.”

The measure, approved by the Prince George’s County Council Nov. 27, will lift the hourly rate to $11.50 by 2017 from the current $7.25.

Under the law, the hourly minimum wage will increase to $8.4o in October. It would rise to $9.55 in October 2015 and $10.75 in October 2016. In October 2017, it would reach $11.50.

Baker said the county estimates that about 4 percent of the employees in the county will be impacted by the new law.

It does not apply to workers who receive tips as part of their pay or to workers younger than 19 who are on the job no more than 20 hours per week.

Luz Lazo writes about transportation and development. She has recently written about the challenges of bus commuting, Metro’s dark stations, and the impact of sequestration on air travel.



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