Legislators introduce proposal raising minimum wage to $10/hour by 2015
Wednesday, 30 January 2013 11:17

Miller suggests allowing counties to raise gas tax

by Bill Gates

    Could you live on $15,000 a year? Should anyone have to try?
    Two legislators and some special interest groups think not, leading to a proposal to raise the Maryland minimum wage from its current $7.25 per hour (approximately $15,000 per year) to $10 per hour (about $21,000 per year).
    The proposal is endorsed by two Democrats: Senate Majority Leader Robert J. Garagiola of Montgomery County and Del. Aisha Braveboy of Prince George’s County.

Raising the minimum wage is also supported by an organization called Raise Maryland which is made up of an immigrant rights group, several unions and the NAACP of Maryland.
    Del. John Olszewski Jr. (6th District), the chairman of the Baltimore County House delegation, describes himself as “torn” over the proposal.
    “You look at low-income folks who are struggling to get by on the current minimum wage,” Olszewski said. “But I have to wonder, worry if what’s being asked in the bill is too much, too soon to ask employers to be so burdened.”
    Under Garagiola’s proposal, the increase would be phased in and not reach $10 until 2015.
    From that point, future increases in the minimum wage would be tied to the cost of living.
    The minimum wage for workers who get the bulk of their income from tips, like waiters and waitresses, would increase from the current 50 percent of minimum wage to 70 percent.
    The federal minimum wage is currently $7.25 per hour. Nineteen states plus the District of Columbia have higher minimum wages.
    Maryland’s minimum wage has been $7.25 per hour since 2009, when it increased from $6.55 to match the federal minimum.
    “We need to make it possible for people to earn a certain standard of living, and it’s questionable as to whether the current rate does that,” Olszewski said. “But is this the time to do it?”
    Detractors say a higher minimum wage would force employers to reduce their number of workers.
    “It will put a lot of small businesses out of business,” Del. Joseph “Sonny” Minnick (6th District) said. “A lot of small businesses are holding on by the skin of their teeth.
    “We just got the economy moving again. I don’t think it’s the right time to do this.”
    Supporters counter that, while some jobs are lost after a minimum wage increase, the economy is helped by workers having more money to spend.

Gas tax options
    Senate Majority Leader Thomas V. Mike Miller said last week he intends to introduce legislation that would allow local jurisdictions the option to raise money — such as increasing the gasoline tax — to fund transprtation projects in their areas.
    This way, instead of the state raising the gas tax for everyone, each county and other local jurisdictions could raise the tax as they see fit.
    “Give [Miller] credit,” Minnick said. “He’s straying out of the box, trying to find a way to get money for the transportation trust fund.
    “I don’t know if the counties will go for it.”
    Olszewski also saw the proposal as innovative, but said “raising taxes is always a cause for concern.”
    But, Olszewski said, it could be useful.
    “If Baltimore County did not have the funds for a roadway or another project, they could have a conversation with the community: ‘here’s what we want to do, but we have to [raise the gas tax] to pay for it’,” Olszewski said.
    Minnick is concerned that it could lead to competition between counties.
    “Just imagine if Baltimore County raised it’s gas tax, and Harford and Anne Arundel counties raised their gas taxes, but not by as much,” he said.
    “People will drive 10 miles out of their way to save two cents a gallon on gas. That’s human nature.”