Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan asked Democratic legislative leaders Friday to slow the state’s march toward a $15 minimum wage, saying it would hurt businesses and make the state less competitive with its neighbors.
In a letter to Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) and House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel), Hogan (R) suggests raising the minimum wage to $12.10 by 2022 — instead of $12.50 in 2022 and $15 in 2025, as legislation that recently cleared the House of Delegates would require.
Under Hogan’s proposal, the state’s minimum wage would not increase above $12.10 unless surrounding states, including Virginia, Delaware, West Virginia and Pennsylvania, reach a combined average of 80 percent of Maryland’s wage.
All of those states have a lower minimum wage than Maryland’s $10.10 an hour.
The House passed its bill 96-44, enough support to override a veto.
The Senate Finance Committee last week approved the measure but made changes to the bill to soften the impact on small businesses. Among them is a provision that would give companies with fewer than 15 employees more time to phase in the higher wage.
Hogan wrote that while many of the “most unpalatable anti-business provisions” have been cut from the legislation, “there are many troubling items in these bills that I fear will be detrimental both to our economic future and the very people that we would like to help.”
“Small businesses faced with the choice between a $7.25 wage in Virginia or $15 in Maryland will be forced to create jobs in the lower cost location and possibly reduce jobs or eliminate operations in Maryland,” Hogan wrote.
The governor also asked Miller and Busch to consider different minimum wages for different parts of the state, which he said is the policy in Oregon and New York. He said the best way to help low-wage workers would be to expand the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit.
Democrats, who control both chambers of the General Assembly, have made a $15-per-hour minimum wage a top priority of the 90-day legislative session, reflecting pressure from the newly energized liberal wing of the party and growing momentum for a $15 wage in Democratic circles across the country.
The increased minimum wage is widely supported among Maryland voters, according to recent polls, and Hogan has limited leverage on the issue, especially if the bill passes the Senate with a veto-proof majority.
Several other deep-blue states, including California, New York, Massachusetts and New Jersey, have adopted a $15 minimum wage, and most 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls have said they support it. Connecticut, Illinois and New Mexico also are weighing bills to raise their wage floors.