With the General Assembly session two-thirds over, Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) has entered the debate over the proposed $15-an-hour minimum wage, offering what he termed a “compromise” proposal to raise the minimum wage to $12.10 an hour.
In a letter to House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) delivered late Friday, Hogan reiterated his reservations about raising the state minimum wage to $15 when surrounding jurisdictions have much lower mandates.
“I would submit to you that no matter how laudable the goal, we must consider the policy implications of a dramatic and untested increase in the minimum wage,” Hogan wrote, adding that “there are many troubling items in these bills that I fear will be detrimental both to our economic future and the very people we are trying to help.”
As an alternative, Hogan suggested raising the minimum wage to $12.10 an hour by 2022 and mandating that subsequent hikes only be made when surrounding jurisdictions have minimum wages that are at least 80 percent of Maryland’s. He noted that Maryland’s minimum wage has gone up to $10.10 an hour during his tenure – higher than the $7.25 an hour mandated by the federal government.
Minimum wages in surrounding states range from $7.25 in Virginia and Pennsylvania to $13.25 in Washington, D.C.
Hogan also suggested that the legislation take regional differences into account and that the state increase the Earned Income Tax Credit to 60 percent of the federal wage.
“You know that I’m fond of catchy slogans, but we shouldn’t undermine our economic success and consign tens of thousands of vulnerable Maryland citizens to unemployment just so we can join a ‘Fight for Fifteen’ movement,” Hogan wrote.
Hogan’s proposal is not likely to sit well with advocates who have been fighting for the $15-an-hour minimum wage. Already they are unhappy that the House has chosen to delay the full implementation of the higher wage to 2025; a provision in the current Senate bill would exempt businesses with 15 employees or less of having to fully implement it until 2028.
Lawmakers have also removed a provision that the advocates sought that would have automatically provided increases in the state minimum wage based on the federal Consumer Price Index.
The House passed its minimum wage bill by a 96-44 vote – enough to sustain a Hogan veto if the votes hold. The full Senate is expected to take up its version of the legislation this coming week.