Baltimore Pursues $15 Minimum Wage Again

Date: February 28, 2017

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On the heels of a vetoed Montgomery County Council effort to raise the county’s minimum wage to $15, the Baltimore City Council will again pursue a wage hike. The measure failed to pass the Council in 2016 with an 8-6 vote to send the bill back to committee. This year, the proposal also comes as the Maryland Legislature weighs a bill that would ban cities and counties from implementing their own local minimum wage increases.

The bill, sponsored by Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke, would gradually raise the Baltimore minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2022. Businesses who employ fewer than 50 people would have until 2026 to get to $15, with 60-cent increases each year.

Maryland is already on a statewide minimum wage increase schedule, however. The rate is currently $8.75 per hour, but will increase to $10.10 by 2018. Under the Baltimore bill, the city would follow the state schedule until then and then continue upward.

Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh, however, has expressed concerns about the mandated wage hike. As a small business owner herself, she told The Baltimore Sun, “People can’t afford to pay these kind of wages. What would I do as a small business? Close my store another day. Just can’t afford it.”

Pugh also noted her worry that if Baltimore’s minimum wage were nearly $5 higher than the rest of the state, the city’s tentative economic rebound could be undone. The Sun reported that Baltimore has added 12,000 new jobs in the past three years, after losing nearly 100,000 between 1990 and 2010. And in January, the Paychex-HIS Markit Small Business Jobs Index ranked Baltimore in the top 5 U.S. cities for small business job growth, reported the Baltimore Business Journal.

A mandated minimum wage hike, even though gradual and well-intentioned, could undermine this positive progress, drive businesses to close, and cause even more hardship for the workers the bill intends to help.

 

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