Poor time to mandate a higher rate in a dour economy
As the major state and county elections are still a year away, supporters of a minimum-wage increase have lined up an array of politicians. The announced and presumed Democratic candidates for Maryland governor — Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, Del. Heather Mizeur and Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler — have all expressed support for an increase.
The current rate, $7.25 an hour, was last increased in 2009. Maryland’s rate matches the federal rate. Nineteen states have minimum-wage rates higher than the federal rate. Proposals at the state and federal level would push the rate to $10 an hour or higher.
Another supporter is Rep. John Delaney, who made his millions as a financier, and has pledged his own money to support an increase to the Maryland minimum wage.
From inside Montgomery, County Councilman Marc Elrich (D-Dist. 1) of Takoma Park wants the county to raise its minimum wage to $12 an hour. He is expected to introduce county legislation soon to establish the rate.
For the proponents, the timing is perfect. Raising the minimum wage is an election-friendly issue for Maryland. Opposing an increase could be seen as opposing our hard-working neighbors who struggle to make ends meet.
For the people who have to pay the minimum wage, however, the timing is horrible. The economy remains fragile; no one doubts better days are ahead, but the question remains how far off those better days are.
An increase could hurt the people who most need help — by increasing costs, employers may hire fewer minimum-wage workers. Teenagers could lose the chance at getting their first jobs.
A better solution would be to wait at least a year to revisit and renew a debate. By then, the signposts to the future economy should point in more definitive directions.