Legislature passes minimum wage hike -- Gazette.Net







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ANNAPOLIS — Minimum wage workers across Maryland will be getting a raise.

After 90 days of dickering, lawmakers voted Monday — the last day of the General Assembly session — to raise the statewide minimum wage gradually to $10.10 per hour.

For Gov. Martin J. O’Malley, the vote is checkmark in the victory column. O’Malley identified raising the wage his top legislative priority this session.

“This year, we are building on this record of strengthening the middle class by raising Maryland’s minimum wage to $10.10,” O’Malley (D) said in a statement commending the General Assembly for the action.

While the legislature held firm at raising the wage to O’Malley’s target of $10.10 per hour, lawmakers stretched implementation by two extra years, reaching $10.10 per hour by July 2018.

Maryland last raised its minimum wage in 2006.

In January, the first raise takes effect, increasing the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $8 an hour.

Conservative lawmakers fought unsuccessfully to keep the wage at the current $7.25 per hour, predicting it would cost the state jobs and make the state even more unfriendly to business.

“And it won’t just cost jobs, it will increase the cost of goods and services,” House Minority Leader Nicholaus R. Kipke (R-Dist. 31) of Pasadena said.

Eighteen House and 27 Senate amendments were proposed throughout the session to change the bill. Only five were adopted.

Montgomery County’s local minimum wage will remain intact under the state bill, despite calls to pre-empt local wage legislation.

Montgomery County’s minimum wage will exceed the state’s, reaching $11.50 by 2017.

But enforcing the counties’ higher local wages will fall to the state, thanks to a bill by Del. Benjamin F. Kramer (D-Dist. 19) of Derwood.

The Senate passed Kramer’s bill Monday.

Sen. Brian J. Feldman said Sen. Allan H. Kittleman (R-Dist. 9) of West Friendship proposed requiring counties with a differing local minimum wage to reimburse the state for the cost of enforcing the wage. Kittleman’s amendment ultimately failed.

Like any other jurisdiction, Montgomery County residents will pay the taxes that cover the supplemental appropriation included by the state for enforcing the minimum wage, Feldman (D-Dist. 15) of Potomac said.

County Council President Craig L. Rice (D-Dist 2) of Germantown, who came down for the last day of session, agreed with Feldman that enforcing the wage was best left to the state.

The bill is headed to O’Malley for what is expected to be a speedy signature into law.