Local Officials Want Option of Topping State Minimum Wage

    Sixteen local elected officials have sent a last-minute appeal to members of the General Assembly, urging them to adopt a $15-an-hour minimum wage. The letter also asks that the minimum wage bill contain a provision allowing local governments to hike their minimum wages above the statewide figure.

    The note is going out just as the Senate Finance Committee is expected to vote on – and possibly amend – the bill on Thursday morning.

    The letter reads:

    Dear Members of the Maryland General Assembly:

    We have been elected by our communities and charged with responding to their needs and concerns. For too many in our districts, their hard work is powering our businesses and institutions, but they are still struggling to provide for their families and make ends meet. That’s why we support the state legislature’s current effort to raise Maryland’s minimum wage to $15 (HB 166, SB 280). We also want our state representatives to firmly protect our cities’ and counties’ long-standing right to adopt a higher local minimum wage when our workers and businesses need a higher minimum wage to thrive.

    Under the state’s current minimum wage of $10.10 per hour, Maryland workers cannot afford the basics even if they work full time. Workers who support families struggle even more, especially in larger metropolitan areas. Maryland’s Fight for $15 campaign has a simple goal of giving hard-working state residents wages they deserve in order to cover basic living costs. Our state legislature now has the opportunity to raise the floor for all Maryland workers with the $15 minimum wage bill now before them, but the state’s minimum wage should remain just that: a floor.

    Good ideas often start locally. Maryland has a long history of allowing the governments we lead to respond to the needs of our residents and supplement our state protections with innovative policies. However, we are a very diverse state and one size will not always fit all when it comes to our state laws. What works for the city of Baltimore may not help the Eastern Shore succeed. The people of Montgomery County have different needs than the residents of southern Maryland.

    Our local governments must continue to allow our residents to propose local solutions that go beyond what our state laws can offer and respond to our unique needs. Counties and cities like ours, for example, should be able to listen to our residents when they tell us that they need better job standards or higher wages than what the state can offer. Our local policies have succeeded in the past, and we can trust our local democratic process to subject our local ideas to a thorough, transparent debate that elevates our unique, local voices.

    By working hand-in-hand with our state delegations, we can pass effective state laws – like the Fight for $15 – that set a minimum standard, while maintaining the ability of local governments to make improvements as needed. We urge you to support the ability of local governments to respond to Maryland’s hard-working residents by passing the Fight for $15 bill without any preemption amendments.

    Prince George’s County Councilmember Jolene Ivey

    Montgomery County Councilmember Hans Reimer

    Montgomery County Councilmember Will Jawando

    Montgomery County Councilmember Evan Glass

    Baltimore City Councilmember Shannon Sneed

    Baltimore City Councilmember John Bullock

    Baltimore City Councilmember Kristerfer Burnett

    Baltimore City Councilmember Bill Henry

    Baltimore City Councilmember Mary Pat Clarke

    Baltimore City Councilmember Zeke Cohen

    Howard County Councilmember Liz Walsh

    Howard County Councilmember Christina Rigby

    College Park City Councilmember Denise Mitchell

    Mt. Rainier Town Councilmember Celina Benitez

    Berwyn Heights Town Councilmember Ethan Sweep

    Hyattsville City Councilmember Carrianna Suiter


    [email protected]

    Josh Kurtz
    Co-founder and Editor Josh Kurtz is the leading chronicler of Maryland politics and government. He began covering the State House in 1995 for The Gazette newspapers, and has been writing about state and local politics ever since. He later became an editor at Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper, and spent eight years at E&E News, an online subscription-only publisher of news websites covering energy and environmental issues. For seven of those years, he led a staff of 20 reporters at E&E Daily, which covers energy and environmental policy on Capitol Hill and in national politics. For 6 1/2 years he wrote a weekly column on state politics for Center Maryland and has written for several other Maryland publications as well. Kurtz has given speeches and appeared on TV and radio shows about Maryland politics through the years.