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Maryland could be next minimum wage front

1/17/2019

Maryland could be next minimum wage front

One of the big trends in state government this year - at least among states that have not raised the minimum wage in recent years - is that lawmakers are now thinking about ways the state's lowest-paid workers can be better-compensated. A number of legislators around the country have already introduced bills to raise their states' minimum wages and it appears many of those efforts will be successful. Maryland may soon be the latest one to join that fray.

The first session of the 2019 Maryland General Assembly recently opened, and among the biggest talking points expected to be tackled in the next few months is the idea of raising the state's minimum wage to $15 per hour, according to the Washington Informer. While the state recently saw its minimum rise to $10.10 per hour, some would like to see it much higher than that.

A bill proposed by Delegate Dianna Fennell would put a $15 minimum wage into place by 2022, the report said. Many lawmakers in the state campaigned on the idea of raising the minimum significantly, so now many are hoping to be able to make good on those promises.

"Now the actual work begins," Del. Julian Ivey, who will represent District 47A and supports a minimum-wage hike, told the publication. "Governing is different from campaigning. I'm ready to get to work for the people in the 47th District, for the people of Prince George's and the state of Maryland."

Strong support from above
Often, the people proposing such changes are seen as upstarts who swept into power because they promised things on the campaign trail that people want, including higher wages, according to Maryland Matters. However, a $15 minimum wage seems to have strong support in the Old Line State even among seasoned political veterans. Senate President Mike Miller recently expressed strong support for the change himself, all but promising that the change would go through after being defeated last year, as the results of the recent election make a path forward a little more clear.

Certainly, the state's Legislative Black Caucus can be counted on to support such a measure, and it recently grew to its largest member count ever, with 56 total, the report said. Del. Darryl Barnes, who chairs the caucus, noted that to pass such a bill the legislature would need 71 votes, and every member of the LBC could be counted on to support it, showing how little the additional support would have to be to push it through.

Why it's important
Some in the Maryland government, including Gov. Larry Hogan, have expressed the familiar concerns that a significant increase in the minimum wage, even if it takes place over a few years, would be harmful to small businesses in the state, according to the Baltimore Sun. They point out that neighboring Virginia still has a minimum wage in line with the federal level of just $7.25, and jobs might move elsewhere.

Of course, there have been plenty of studies to suggest that such concerns are not well-founded. In general, when minimum wages rise, the people who earn more money put that pay back into their local communities, supporting nearby businesses of all shapes and sizes, and in the end may create more jobs.

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