Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan vetoed a $15 minimum wage Wednesday, setting up an override fight with the Democratic-controlled General Assembly over one of the top priorities of the state’s growing liberal wing.
Hogan (R) also vetoed bills allowing school districts to set their own calendars and stripping power to regulate alcohol and tobacco from the state comptroller. All three bills passed by veto-proof majorities, and lawmakers could attempt to overturn the vetoes as soon as Thursday.
In rejecting the minimum-wage bill, Hogan argued that a statewide increase to $15 an hour by 2025 would lead to job losses in Maryland’s rural areas, which generally have lower costs of living and higher unemployment than the urban and suburban jurisdictions near Baltimore and the District.
The governor has repeatedly said that a $15 wage could ultimately end up hurting the low-earning workers that the bill is designed to help. Hogan criticized Democrats for not acting on his alternative proposal for a smaller wage increase, which he said would allow Maryland to remain competitive with surrounding states.
Maryland last voted to increase the statewide minimum wage in 2014, gradually increasing it to the current $10.10 per hour, which took effect in 2018.
“In the spirit of compromise, I provided the General Assembly with several reasonable options that would have provided for an increase in the minimum wage but not negatively impact jobs and businesses in Maryland,” Hogan said in his veto message. “Unfortunately, those efforts were completely ignored.”
He called the other bills he vetoed “politically motivated.”
One would reverse Hogan’s 2016 executive order requiring school to start after Labor Day and end by June 15. While the governor said his order would “let summer be summer” and boost the tourism industry, the Maryland teachers union and other education advocates said it hurts children by curtailing access to school-based benefits and exacerbating summer learning loss.
Hogan called the bill on alcohol and tobacco regulation “a solution in search of a problem.” It would take power from the office of Comptroller Peter Franchot (D), an ally of the governor who rankled fellow Democrats with his advocacy for craft brewers, his close ties to Hogan and his attacks on members of his own party.
Franchot praised the veto in a statement that accused legislative leaders of using the General Assembly “to carry out political vendettas.”
The House and Senate passed different versions of the minimum-wage legislation but hammered out a compromise agreement last week. The measure would require companies with fewer than 15 employees to pay the new wage by July 2026. Larger companies would have to start paying the higher wage by 2025.
Under the governor’s plan, the minimum wage of $10.10 would increase to $12.10 an hour by 2022. Hogan also asked the legislature not to increase the minimum wage beyond $12.10 unless surrounding states reach a combined average of 80 percent of Maryland’s wage. The minimum wage is $7.25 in Virginia and Pennsylvania and $8.75 in Delaware and West Virginia.
Montgomery County, Maryland’s most populous jurisdiction, passed a law that will raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2020. The District has a similar law in place.
Sen. Cory V. McCray (D-Baltimore City), the lead sponsor of the bill, said he was disappointed in the governor’s response.
“The Fight for $15 sends a message that the State of Maryland values working class families who play an invaluable role in our economy but are struggling to afford basic living expenses,” McCray said in a statement.
The General Assembly forced Hogan to act on the bills by using a provision in the state constitution that allows them to submit bills to the governor at least six days before the end of the legislative session. Under the provision, the bills become law after six days unless the governor issues a veto, which gives lawmakers time to override those vetoes before their annual legislative session adjourns.