Local officials and state lawmakers are once again attempting to make higher wages for Marylanders a reality.
Last month Baltimore City Council members voted on a resolution requesting state action on increasing the minimum wage and the subminimum wage, which is earned by workers that are paid, in part, by tips earned.
“This would be very helpful to thousands of people in Baltimore City and their families,” Councilmember Mary Pat Clarke told the AFRO. “It would raise the minimum wage to $10.10 statewide. It would also help people who work for tips.”
Clarke said she hopes legislators would implement the increase by July 1, 2014, seeing as how the minimum wage would be $10.60 had it kept up with the increasing cost of living in the last four decades.
“Right now in Maryland, workers who earn tips are entitled to only 50 percent of what the minimum wage is in Maryland, which right now is $7.25. The resolution supports raising that to 70 percent of the minimum wage per hour,” said Clarke, who introduced the resolution.
Clarke said that skirting around the minimum wage issue with talk of tax breaks instead of actual wage increase would be pointless.
“A lot of people are such low earners that any tax break wouldn’t matter,” she said.
“If someone is suggesting that we give people a tax break instead of a higher minimum wage it just doesn’t compute. When your wages and earnings are at a certain low level, there’s barely any tax rate to cut.”
According to legislative documents filed and released by the Baltimore City Council, even if a Maryland worker were to work full-time hours, at $7.25 an hour they would only earn $15,000.
Gas, food, tolls, insurance, and tuition costs are just some of the necessities that have increased with the cost of living as wages have remained stagnant.
If the state General Assembly were to take action in the next session, the pay of 472,000 workers would increase, and 4,060 fulltime jobs would be created as part of the $466 million economic growth spurt that would occur, according to the resolution.
In March of this year Maryland legislators were unsuccessful in passing measures to increase the minimum wage when Senate Bill 0683 died while in the Senate Finance Committee.
The bill that would have increased the minimum wage in increments from the current $7.25 standard to $10 an hour by 2015. After July 1, 2015, the bill would have instructed the state to increase wages with the cost of living.
It was shot down in an 8-3 vote on Mar. 20, after unfavorable votes were received from Sens. Barry Glassman (R- Harford County), Delores G. Kelley (D- Baltimore County) and Allan H. Kittlemann (R- Carroll and Howard counties).
They were joined in opposition to the measure by Sens. Katherine A. Klausmeier (D-Baltimore County), James N. Mathias Jr. (D-Ocean City) and then-Senate Minority Leader E.J. Pipkin (R-Elkton).
Chair of the Finance Committee Thomas M. Middleton, a democrat of Charles County, and Vice-Chair of the Committee, John C. Astle of Anne Arundel County, also voted against the bill.
Senators Kelley and Mathias were unavailable for comment.
As a result of the initiative dying in the special committee, it never made it to the House of Delegates, where a cross-filed bill, House Bill 1204, was being considered.
“For many Marylanders a higher wage would mean being able to afford the basics for their families- childcare, food, medicine, and everything else needed to live a quality life in our state,” said Del. Aisha Braveboy (D-Prince George’s), who sponsored HB 1204.
“It means lifting many people out of poverty and getting them off public assistance.”