The New York Times
By: Trip Gabriel
April 7, 2014
Maryland embraced President Obama's call to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour on Monday, the second state to do since Connecticut acted last month.
The Maryland General Assembly voted for the pay raise on the last day of its 2014 regular session, giving Gov. Martin O'Malley a victory on his top priority this year. The governor, in his last year in office, has staked out a consistently liberal record as he weighs running for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination.
Mr. O'Malley thanked lawmakers "for giving so many Maryland families the raise they deserve."
The governor also said he would sign a bill passed Monday that decriminalizes possession of small amounts of marijuana. Violators caught with less than 10 grams of the drug would be issued the equivalent of a traffic ticket and would pay a fine rather than face criminal prosecution.
Action on the minimum wage has moved to the states with congressional Republicans refusing to act on Mr. Obama's call to lift the federal minimum wage from $7.25. Eight states and the District of Columbia have raised their base wages in 2013 and 2014 as Democrats seek to use economic inequality as a rallying point in the midterm elections.
Also on Monday, Democrats, who control the Minnesota State Legislature, said they reached a deal to lift the minimum wage to $9.50 an hour by 2016 for large employers, from the current rate of $6.15. Gov. Mark Dayton, a Democrat, is seeking re-election.
Last month, Connecticut enacted a law raising the minimum wage to $10.10 in 2017.
California, which passed a two-step wage increase last year that will reach $10 by 2016, could be the first state to break the $10 ceiling. Some cities and local districts have gone further; the District of Columbia will require an $11.50 wage as of July 2016.
Maryland's bill was scaled back from what Mr. O'Malley first proposed after objections that it would harm businesses. The minimum of $10.10 an hour will be reached in steps by July 2018 from the current floor of $7.25, two years later than Mr. O'Malley had requested. The bill exempts tipped workers, whose base wage will remain frozen at $3.63 an hour, and some businesses, including restaurants with income below $400,000.
Republicans, who are in the minority in both legislative chambers in Annapolis, objected that the wage increase would cause businesses to reduce employees, raise prices or even close and that Maryland would be at a disadvantage with neighboring states in attracting new companies. One lawmaker cited a muffin shop that was blocks from the assembly and popular with lawmakers that had recently closed.
Debating the bill before its 87-to-47 passage on Monday in the House of Delegates, Republicans called it extreme and "socialistic," and cited a Congressional Budget Office study that raising the federal minimum to $10.10 could cost 500,000 jobs nationally. "Maryland already has a bad reputation in the business community, and when you take even more out of the pockets of the job creators they're going to start looking elsewhere for their next investment," said Nicholaus R. Kipke, the House minority leader.
Delegate Dereck E. Davis, a Democrat, said the bill's incremental increases were modest. "If not now, when?" he asked. "By the logic we keep hearing on the floor, we should never raise the minimum wage."