By William J. Ford
Republican Gov. Larry Hogan sent a letter to legislature leadership Friday offering a “compromise” to the ongoing proposal to gradually increase the state’s minimum hourly wage to $15, which the majority Democratic House approved last week.
According to the letter addressed to Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. and House Speaker Michael Busch, the minimum wage would increase to $12.10 by 2022.
The governor said his proposal would take into account local and regional economic conditions.
“I am extremely concerned that a dramatic and geographically disproportionate increase in our minimum wage will negatively impact our competitiveness and harm our state’s economy,” Hogan wrote. “You know that I’m fond of catchy slogans, but we shouldn’t undermine our economic success and consign tens of thousands of vulnerable Maryland citizens to unemployment just so we can join a ‘Fight for Fifteen’ movement.”
Hogan noted that neighboring states are below Maryland’s current minimum wage of $10.10.
For instance, some workers in Virginia and Pennsylvania receive a minimum wage equal to the federal level of $7.25.
The figure is slightly higher in West Virginia and Delaware at $8.25, but scheduled to rise to $9.25 in October in Delaware.
The District’s current minimum wage at $13.25 per hour will increase to $14 in July and then to $15 by July 2020.
Also in Hogan’s proposal for Maryland, increase the state’s earned income tax credit to 60 percent of the federal wage as a way to provide relief for low-income workers and not affect businesses.
“By cutting back your proposed increase, we can easily afford to offer this well documented and effective relief to working families,” Hogan wrote.
The governor’s proposal doesn’t reflect the House’s 96-44 vote on March 1 to increase the minimum wage to $11 by January, by 75 cents each of the following four years and finally by $1 to $15 an hour by January 2025. The original bill, labeled a “clean $15,” had the wage applied by 2023.
However, the Senate’s Finance Committee recommended Thursday to approve $15 an hour but with a few changes.
Two major changes would keep the tip wage at $3.63 per hour and allow businesses with 14 or fewer employees to implement $15 an hour by 2028.
In addition, the state’s Board of Public Works may suspend an increase one time based on economic data.
The full Senate plans to discuss the minimum wage plan Monday night.
Several business leaders and advocate groups are pleased lawmakers agreed to the gradual rise to $15 an hour, but want it done sooner.
“We continue to hear from business organizations and business leaders across Maryland calling for an increase to $15 by 2023, and to indexing wages thereafter so the minimum wage keeps up with the cost of living rather than falling behind,” Alissa Barron-Menza, vice president of Business for a Fair Minimum Wage, said in a statement. “We assert that Maryland needs a stronger wage floor under the economy and a more robust increase makes good business sense now.”
This article originally appeared in the Washington Informer.