Md. House Approves Minimum Wage Hike

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    The Maryland House of Delegates voted Friday to phase in an increase in the state's minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 by 2017.

    The Democrat-controlled House voted 89-46 for the measure, largely along party lines.

    The bill would increase the minimum wage to $8.20 in January. It would rise to $9.15 in January 2016 and $10.10 in January 2017.

    The measure now goes to the state Senate.

    Supporters said a slow economic recovery from the recession has increased the number of people who rely on minimum wage to raise families.

    "To those who are deciding between keeping the lights on and putting food on their tables, I'm here to tell you help is on the way,'' said Del. Dereck Davis, D-Prince George's. "For those seeking a hand up and not a hand out, I'm here to tell you help is on the way.''

    Opponents contended the measure would hurt small businesses. Fewer people will be hired under the hire wage, opponents said, particularly in jobs filled by young workers on summer jobs or when first entering the workforce.

    "This is too egregious,'' Del. Ron George, R-Anne Arundel, said, referring to the amount of the increase. "This kills jobs, and it's going to kill small business.''

    The measure as amended by the House does not include an indexing for inflation that Gov. Martin O'Malley had supported for future years after 2017. The bill is a top priority of the Democratic governor this session. The House also delayed the implementation of the increase over three years. The bill initially would have put the increases in effect July 1 in each of the three years, but they will now take effect Jan. 1.

    The measure keeps an exemption for restaurants and bars that make less than $250,000 a year from paying minimum wage.

    The House also pulled back on a proposal that would have benefited tipped workers. The measure initially would have increased the cash wage rate for tipped workers from 50 percent to 70 percent of the minimum wage. Now, the wage for tipped workers would be frozen at $3.63 an hour.

    Employers would make up the difference, if employees do not make enough in tips to meet the new minimum wage rates.

    The measure also does not prevent counties from raising the minimum wage higher than the state's. Local officials in Montgomery County and Prince George's counties in the suburbs of the nation's capital already have voted to raise the minimum wage in those jurisdictions to $11.50 by 2017.