The Maryland Senate is advancing a version of a minimum wage increase that gives small businesses more time to reach a $15 minimum wage.
The state’s current minimum wage is $10.10 per hour after increasing for the past four years.
The Senate’s version of the bill requires large businesses — defined as having at least 15 employees — to start paying at least $11 per hour, increasing to $15 in 2025.
Smaller businesses would have a more gradual phase-in that would bring the minimum wage to $15 for their employees by 2028.
Under a version approved last week by the House of Delegates, all employers, regardless of their size, would follow the same schedule of increasing the wage to $15 in 2025.
The bill approved Thursday morning by the Senate Finance Committee also requires the governor to put more money in the budget to help state-funded health and human services organizations — such as those that provide behavioral health services and that help those with developmental disabilities — pay their employees more.
The Senate Finance Committee’s 8-3 vote sends the measure to the full Senate for consideration.
“It’s probably going to be a very vigorous debate on the floor,” said Sen. Ed Reilly, an Anne Arundel County Republican.
Sen. Joanne Benson, a Prince George’s County Democrat, wasn’t thrilled that it will take so long for workers to reach a $15 minimum wage under the bill.
“It’s just so watered down. I’m feeling very concerned about that,” she said.
The Senate and House will ultimately have to agree on the same details for the wage increase to send the measure to Gov. Larry Hogan’s desk.
In addition to not having different rates of increase for different size employers, the recently passed House version of the bill has different funding requirements for the state-funded health organizations.
The Republican governor has voiced concerns that raising the minimum wage might chase jobs out of the state and end up hurting low-wage workers more than helping them. But he has not said definitively whether he supports or opposes the wage increase.