The Maryland Senate made a crucial step forward in ensuring the economic security of its labor force this week, when it approved a hard-fought bill to raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 for most workers by the end of 2025.
Though organizers and labor groups have been tirelessly fighting for this for years, this is the first time a bill to raise the wage floor has passed both chambers of the General Assembly – and each in veto-proof numbers. There are some differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill, mainly in how much time small businesses have to raise the wage and how much additional state funding to allocate towards health and human services programs for workers in future budgets, but most of the basic principles are the same.
However, this isn’t a done deal yet. GOP Governor Larry Hogan has indicated he will veto the bill in its current form, which is possible if the House and Senate can’t agree on the language of the bill and vote on a final version in veto-proof numbers again. In his pushback against the bill, Hogan has used the same old, tired arguments that Republicans always use to try and ignore the pleas of constituents who are barely making ends meet.
Hogan said the bill would negatively impact businesses (even though evidence supports that businesses and employment will remain just fine) and make it hard for the state to compete with its neighbors (even though DC is also slated to raise the floor to $15 this year and surrounding states are considering similar proposals).
Meanwhile, the benefits of raising the wage in Maryland are clear. A report by the Maryland Center on Economic Policy and the Economic Policy Institute estimates that over half a million workers – nearly 1 in 4 workers – struggle to make ends meet on the state’s current minimum wage despite working full-time. According to MIT’s Living Wage Calculator, the average single adult would need to make $15.08 to cover basic costs of living, and the burden is higher for adults with children.
That could very well be the reason that the average person to benefit from raising the wage in Maryland is a female adult who, despite working full-time, hovers around the poverty line in the state. The expected income increase for that average worker would be around $4,600 per year, which will make a world of difference for the working poor as they just try and meet their most basic needs. It’s far past time we retire the myth that minimum wage workers are teenagers trying to earn extra spending money. They’re much more often adults who are the primary breadwinners of their families, and they deserve to be paid accordingly.
And regardless of whatever Governor Hogan says, a higher minimum wage is good for business. More money in the pockets of the average Marylander will drive consumer growth in the state, funneling much-needed money right back into the businesses he claims to care so much about.
This vote is a victory for Maryland Dems not just because it’s the right thing to do. It’s also just good politics to deliver on what your citizens want, and 60 percent of Maryland voters support a statewide $15 minimum wage, according to 2017 polling.
Let’s get one thing straight as Gov. Hogan tries to defeat a bill that would give hundreds of thousands of his constituents a raise – a $15 minimum wage isn’t outlandish. It’s necessary. No one working full time should have to worry about how they’re going to pay their bills, and raising the wage floor is just the first of many steps in making sure that every citizen is financially secure. But it’s a crucial first step, and the Patriotic Millionaires stand firmly behind the Maryland General Assembly in their fight to make this (finally) happen.