Local leaders gathered in Annapolis on Thursday to voice support for legislation to increase the statewide minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2023.
Baltimore Mayor Catherine E. Pugh (D) was joined by the Democratic county executives from Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Howard, Montgomery and Prince George’s to endorse the Fight for Fifteen bill, which will be considered in the House Economic Matters Committee on Friday.
Pugh said the bill would ensure that Maryland moves as one toward an increased minimum wage.
“I have consistently maintained that this is a regional issue and that increasing the minimum wage in one jurisdiction without doing so across our state is counterproductive,” Pugh said. “This legislation ensures a consistent approach for enabling hardworking individuals and families in Baltimore City and in our counties to keep pace with increases to the cost of living, while improving their living standards over time.”
Prince George’s County Executive Angela D. Alsobrooks agreed.
“No one jurisdiction can achieve this on its own, because unless each city and county adopts the $15 minimum wage, it will not be a viable solution,” she said. “For these reasons, I stand with my colleagues in support of this legislation.”
In 2017, Montgomery County passed legislation to raise the minimum wage in the county to $15 an hour gradually through 2024.
“I taught in a high-poverty school for 17 years and saw, up close, the effects of poverty on children and their families. Raising the wage helps them and helps the local economy; when poor families have money to spend, it is usually spent at local businesses,” said Montgomery County Executive Marc B. Elrich. “We need to raise the wage to $15, across the state, for all workers. If you’re working, and you still can’t feed your family and can’t keep a roof over your head, there’s something wrong with that.”
Howard County Executive Calvin Ball said Maryland is one of the most expensive states in which to live and some families can’t make ends meet even with full-time jobs.
“Marylanders are individuals of character full of compassion toward our most vulnerable neighbors. I was elected to support hardworking families and individuals working to improve our communities. Raising the wage in a thoughtful way will bring in new customers for small businesses, raising businesses’ bottom lines and increasing profits,” Ball said.
Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman said it was time to focus on economic policies that affected families, rather than corporations.
“I’m tired of reports that show wealth growing at the top while the people doing the toughest jobs in our county can’t afford rent, child care or health insurance,” he said.
Baltimore County Executive John A. Olszewski Jr. said the proposed bills “offer a reasonable path the $15-an-hour minimum wage.”
Similar $15 bills have failed in the General Assembly in the past and face opposition from powerful business lobbies in the capital.
Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) said he worries about the economic impact an increase might create. Hogan discussed the proposed bills Thursday morning at an annual breakfast with the Legislative Black Caucus, which has listed a $15 minimum wage as a top priority this session.
“We all agree that we’d like to help people that need help the most and do something to lift people out of poverty and do something to try to move wage growth along. We all agree on this,” Hogan said.
But the state’s $10.10 is the highest in the region and a further boost could cost the state jobs, he said.
“Virginia’s minimum wage is $7.25. If we jump to $15 are there businesses that are going to say, ‘I’m not going to Maryland, I’m going to Virginia,’ and how much of an impact does that have on our economy?” Hogan said.
He said the issue was not a “yes or no” topic.
“It’s a let’s make sure whatever we do is done with a whole lot of thought,” Hogan said.