By Margaret Sessa-Hawkins
The House of Delegates gave final passage to legislation raising the Maryland minimum wage to $10.10 by 2018, sending it to the governor for his certain signature.
The bill had originally passed the House 89-46 and the Senate 34-15 before coming back to the House for a final concurrence vote, which passed 87-47.
The increase had been the most visible legislative priority of Gov. Martin O’Malley and it will be the first minimum wage increase Maryland has seen since 2006.
“People playing by the rules and working hard should not have to raise their children in poverty,” Governor Martin O’Malley said of the raise. “I think more and more people are understanding that we build our economy from the middle up, and that trickle-down economics doesn’t work, and never has.”
The bill had a rocky road to passage. In its initial debate in the House, HB 295, sponsored by 53 delegates led by Speaker Michael Busch, was peppered with 17 amendment attempts.
On the Senate side, Thomas ‘Mac’ Middleton, chair of the Finance Committee, refused to bring the measure to a committee vote until provision was made for the state’s disability support workers. His move left the bill trapped in committee for over two weeks with the end of the annual session looming.
Republicans still insist it kills jobs
Once out of committee and on the floor of the Senate, 27 more amendments were proposed before the bill was finally sent back to the House for a vote on whether it would concur with those changes. Although the measure passed by wide margins, Republicans still staunchly opposed the raise.
“Maryland already has a bad reputation in the business community,” House Minority Leader Nic Kipke said. “When you take even more out of the pockets of the job creators, they’re going to start looking elsewhere for their next investment.”
Since the bill had to go through so many compromises to reach final passage, the version which passed the final concurrence Monday was substantially different from the one which initially passed the House a month ago.
The biggest change has been the delay in the roll-out of the wage. In the original version of the bill, the minimum wage was set to rise to $10.10 by January 2017. Now, the wage won’t reach $10.10 until 18 months later.
Disability support staff to get raise
Another big change was the inclusion of wage protection for support staff of people with developmental disabilities. Under an amendment added by the finance committee, the governor must include a 3.5% annual funding increase to community service providers for the next four years.
This increase would be used to insure that workers’ salaries stay around 30% above the minimum wage.
Other changes included freezing tipped workers’ wages at $3.63 (previously they were 50% of the minimum wage), amending an exemption for seasonal workers in Ocean City so that they will now be paid 85% of the minimum wage (previously they would be paid federal minimum wage), and an exemption for restaurants which gross under $400,000 a year (as versus $250,000 before).
The wage will begin rising Jan. 1, 2015, when it will go up to $8.00 an hour. From there it will rise to $8.25 on July 1, 2015, $8.75 on July 1, 2016, $9.25 on July 1, 2017 and finally to $10.10 on July 1, 2018.