Two of the three Democratic candidates for governor told community development advocates Monday that they would reopen the debate over the just-passed boost in Maryland's minimum wage to accelerate the increase.
Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler and Del. Heather R. Mizeur each expressed dissatisfaction with the minimum wage bill passed this year by the General Assembly. The bill raising the wage to $10.10 was a top priority of Gov. Martin O'Malley, but legislators slowed its implementation. Under the new law, the raise will rise to $10.10 in 2018.
Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown, the front-runner in the race and political partner of O'Malley, did not bring up the issue in his remarks to the Community Development Network of Maryland and the Maryland Community Action Partnership.
The two groups held a forum for gubernatorial candidates at the Turf Valley Resort in Ellicott City. One Republican candidate – Charles County business executive Charles Lollar — joined Mizeur, Gansler, Brown and little-known Democrat Cindy Walsh at the event.
Though Mizeur voted for the minimum wage bill as a delegate from Montgomery County, she complained about the minimum wage not reaching $10.10 until 2018 – in the middle of the next gubernatorial campaign. She also said she would like to go beyond the minimum wage to set a "living wage" of $16.70 an hour.
Mizeur and Gansler also faulted the legislation for failing to include an indexing provision that would automatically tie the wage to inflation. And they criticized the lack of an increase in the minimum for tipped workers, indicating they would ask the General Assembly to adopt those provisions.
O'Malley, with Brown's support, included such provisions in his original bill but they were stripped out in the House of Delegates.
Lollar also got in on the minimum wage discussion, using it to express displeasure at Maryland taxes.
"You can increase the minimum wage to $50 an hour but if the state takes $45 out of that, you only have $5 an hour," he said.
The candidates spoke separately to the group of several hundred community development advocates. Each promised to make affordable housing and livable neighborhoods priorities if elected.
Both Mizeur and Brown proposed at least a tenfold increase in the amount budgeted for the Maryland Affordable Housing Trust. Mizeur said she wanted to grow the program, which provides incentives to developers to build low-cost rental housing, to $25 million. Brown set his goal at $20 million.
There was no interaction, as there was in last week's televised debate, but Gansler took several back-handed swipes at Brown without mentioning him by name. The attorney general prefaced his remarks by asking a "procedural question" about the presence of the Brown's "tracker" in the room – indicating that months after the rival campaign began videotaping Gansler at public events, the practice still rankles him.