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Montgomery County elected officials pledge to raise Maryland’s minimum wage

Momentum is building for an increase to $10.10 per hour by 2016 for state’s lowest paid workers

Montgomery County legislators are pledging to pass a bill raising the state’s minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 per hour during the 2014 Maryland General Assembly. On October 1, the Montgomery County Council unanimously passed a resolution supporting raising the rate for the state’s lowest wage workers.

At a press conference in Takoma Park, Del. Anne Kaiser and Sen. Jamie Raskin, co-chairs of the Montgomery County legislative delegation detailed why they believe that it is the right time to increase the minimum wage in Maryland.  Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett and Montgomery County Council members Valerie Ervin and Marc Elrich also spoke at the event.

“Raising the minimum wage is a top priority for the upcoming legislative session. And it’s not enough to just pass any minimum wage increase,” said Sen. Raskin. “We will be advocating for a strong bill that raises the rate to $10.10, indexes the minimum wage to inflation and includes a raise for tipped workers.”

The proposed legislation would raise Maryland’s minimum wage in three steps to $10.10 per hour by 2016 and index it to the cost of living thereafter so that it doesn’t lose value over time. The legislation also incorporates an increase for tipped workers (from 50 percent to 70 percent of the prevailing minimum wage).

“It is time for the General Assembly to act on wages, to raise the standard for all workers,” said Del. Kaiser. “That includes tipped workers – restaurant workers, barbers, nail technicians, car wash employees – everyone who depends on tips as part of their income.”

Momentum is building for Maryland to increase the state’s minimum wage during the upcoming 2014 session of the Maryland General Assembly.  The Baltimore City Council also recently passed a unanimous resolution calling for an increase and each of the Democratic 2014 gubernatorial candidates have announced their support for a raise.

“With passage of this resolution, Montgomery County stands united in support of higher pay for our workers and building our county and state economy,” said County Executive Leggett. “An increase will also stimulate business and spending and we always welcome more business here in Montgomery County.”

The press conference was held at Capital City Cheesecake, a café and bakery in Takoma Park.  Meaghan Murphy, who owns the business with her sister, spoke in support of a wage increase. “Even though it’s a challenge to meet this higher wage, at the end of the day we’re not in business for solely our own benefit,” said Murphy. “We shouldn’t be in business if we can’t provide another dollar or more per hour to our workers.”

Councilman member Elrich, who introduced the measure, also addressed concerns about small business, saying, “We hear from the business lobby that a raise in the minimum wage will hurt business. They say that it’s a job killer and small businesses will be most affected. In fact, across Maryland, 71 percent of all low-wage workers are employed by businesses with more than 50 employees, like big box retailers and fast food restaurants.”

“We talk about understanding the face of poverty, but it faces we see every day in Montgomery County – working families trying to put food on the table, ensure a quality education for their kids and keep up with bill payments,” said Ervin. “With one of the highest standards of living in the state, we are leaving our low wage workers behind.”

A low-wage worker, Wilfred Mokoko, also spoke at the event, detailing the struggles he faces living on the minimum wage.  “At the start, the wages were fair, but as the cost of living has increased, I saw my wages were too low. The Ride On bus fare has increased from $1.20 to $1.80.  To many people these changes do not make a difference, but they matter to me. Some weeks, I spend more than $20 on bus transportation. When you make $7.25 an hour, this really hurts.”

Research has found that approximately 472,000 Marylanders would benefit from the increase, putting $466 million more in their pockets in the next two years. At the same time, businesses would benefit from nearly half a billion dollars in new consumer spending and would create more than 4,000 new full-time jobs as they expand to meet increased demand.

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