The Maryland House of Delegates March 5 voted down a plan by Gov. Martin O’Malley to tie increases in the minimum wage to inflation.

O’Malley had hoped to connect the minimum wage to the Consumer Price Index. Instead, Del. Heather Mizeur (D-Montgomery County), a candidate for governor, tried for an increase in the minimum wage of about 2 percent per year.

But members of the House stood strongly against Mizeur’s measure, voting 124-8 to defeat it.

Del. Aisha Braveboy (D-Prince George’s), chair of the Maryland Black Legislative Caucus and the bill’s sponsor in the House, said the actions March 5 included a series of amendments that were defeated including one that would have created a tiered system for the minimum wage—meaning that the amount would have differed in different areas of the state.

“The House rejected that notion and believed that we have to set a floor and we want to set that at $10.10 per hour,” she said. “We also had an amendment that would have exempted companies that made $500,000 or less and we also rejected that. There was also an amendment that would have limited the increased to $8.25.”

Braveboy said she is “optimistic” that the increase will become law.

“I definitely think it will pass,” she said. “But I am concerned about what the Senate is going to do with the bill. I’ve heard some of the members of the Senate Finance Committee don’t’ want to go as high as $10.10 and they may want to add additional exemptions. Those are some of the concerns we have over here in the House, but we have to wait and see what they do.”

The wage bill would still increase the minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $10.10 per hour over the next three years

Earlier in the week, the House Economic Matters Committee voted for the first time in eight years to increase the wage.

Though the committee passed the measure, members stripped important parts of the Minimum Wage Act of 2014, including tying increases in the future to the cost of living. Another change limited workers who earn tips to $3.63 per hour.

Employers who hire tipped workers would be required to make up the difference between $3.63 per hour and $10.10 per hour if workers do not make at least the new minimum wage.

The vote does not affect wage increases already voted for by local legislators in Prince George’s and Montgomery County, who recently increased their minimum wages to $11.50 per hour over the next three years.

A third reading on the House wage bill is expected to take place on March 7.

Tying the minimum wage to inflation, or indexing, has been controversial since the legislature began pondering an increase in the minimum wage. The Senate Finance Committee is scheduled to take up the measure March 10.

Braveboy said a raise in the minimum wage is needed to accommodate workers.

“Maryland has one of the highest costs of living in the country yet maintains the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour,” she said. “We can and should do better than the bare minimum.”

Zachary Lester

AFRO Staff Writer