James Ray of Baltimore holds up his banner during a rally supporting to rise the state's minimum wage outside of the Maryland State House in Annapolis, Md, on Jan. 14, 2014.
Jose Luis Magana/AP

Maryland ‘leading by example’ on minimum wage

In Washington, efforts to raise the minimum wage appear stuck, unable to overcome Republican opposition. Outside the Beltway, however, there’s quite a bit of action.
Just last week, Connecticut heeded President Obama’s call for a $10.10 minimum wage, and yesterday, lawmakers in Maryland agreed to do the same.
Legislation to increase Maryland’s minimum wage to $10.10 by 2018 is now ready for Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) to sign into law following a final vote by the Maryland House of Delegates on Monday.
Increasing the minimum wage has been O’Malley’s top priority in his final legislative session, although he has seen his original proposal dragged out and loaded with exemptions. The House voted 87 to 47 on Monday to accept additional changes to the legislation made by the Senate over the weekend.
Some caveats are in order. Maryland will phase in the increase over the course of four years – a year longer than Connecticut – and the new legislation does not apply to tipped workers or businesses relying on a “training wage” for workers under 20 during their first six months of employment. There are also some exemptions for seasonal amusement parks and restaurants generating less than $400,000 in annual revenue.
Still, it’s a big step forward – President Obama applauded the state for “leading by example” – and the latest evidence that for all the GOP gridlock on Capitol Hill, there are states, cities, and even businesses willing to do what Congress cannot.
What’s more, Connecticut and Maryland probably won’t be the last two states to act on this.
Laura Clawson highlighted the next two states likely to follow suit.
Legislators in Minnesota are close to a deal to raise their state’s minimum wage to $9.50 an hour, with increases tied to inflation but within the governor’s power to veto. And in Massachusetts, the state House and Senate are agreed on raising the minimum wage above $10.10 an hour, but they can’t agree whether to raise it to $10.50 an hour and pass it along with unemployment insurance reform, as the House wants, or separate those issues and raise the minimum wage to $11 an hour, as the Senate wants.
Also keep an eye on Michigan, where a concerted effort is underway to get the issue on the statewide ballot this November,
In the meantime, if Obama’s event in Maryland yesterday was any indication, Democrats don’t intend to drop this as an election-year issue anytime soon.