State Sen. Thomas Me. "Mac" Middleton opposes an increase in the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour unless the wages for "people who care for the developmentally disabled" are at least 135 percent of the minimum wage ("Fairness for caregivers," March 21). In taking this position Senator Middleton demonstrates the likely effect of a minimum wage hike: increased wages for all lower wage hourly employees, whether or not they currently work for the minimum, followed by price increases in a wide variety of goods and services purchased by lower wage workers.

At least as importantly, however, is the fact that this is state legislation, which would result in substantially higher labor costs in Maryland than in surrounding jurisdictions, including Virginia and Pennsylvania, providing still another invitation for manufacturing and distribution businesses to relocate.

The leaders of Maryland's government, including our Democratic candidates for governor, talk about making Maryland more competitive. However, raising the minimum wage, on top of so many other Maryland tax and other policy changes in recent years, strongly discourages manufacturing and distribution business that employ lower skilled workers from locating or remaining in Maryland. This approach seems likely to result in net job losses that will harm those with limited skills, who will become (further) dependent on government transfer payments if they are unable to find jobs at their skill level.

So if the legislature nevertheless believes it necessary to mandate higher hourly wages, out of step with the U.S. Congress, it is critical that it take steps (through tax credits or otherwise) to incentivize manufacturing and distribution companies to remain in Maryland, despite their massive increases in labor costs as compared to their competitors in other states.

David L. Cahn, Baltimore

-
To respond to this letter, send an email to talkback@baltimoresun.com. Please include your name and contact information.