Baltimore's delegation leaders said Thursday that raising the state's minimum wage by nearly $3 an hour will be the city's top issue of next General Assembly session.
"This is going to be our new strongest priority," said Del. Curt Anderson, chairman of the city's delegation at a news conference at City Hall.
The state's minimum wage has been set at $7.25 per hour since 2009. That means minimum-wage workers earn about $15,000 a year for full-time, year-round work.
The bill backed by city politicians would incrementally increase the state’s minimum wage to $10.10 per hour by 2016 and automatically increase it with inflation thereafter. They argue the increase would inject $466 million into Maryland’s economy, and create 4,060 jobs in the state.
State Senate President Thomas V. "Mike" Miller said Thursday that "it's time" to raise the state's minimum wage. He said the measure might be tied to a cut in the corporate income tax rate.
"Blue collar people are finding it increasingly hard to make ends meet," Miller said. "I think it’s time to increase the minimum wage. It’s just a matter of figuring out how to do it without laying people off."
The powerful senate president, whose blessing gives the movement greater odds of passing next year, said he talked with business owners about what would make an increase feasible.
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said she, Gov. Martin O'Malley and leading Democrat contenders for governor back the hike.
“It’s the smart thing to do, and it’s the right thing to do,” she said in a statement. “When our low-income families get a hand up, all of us do a little better, as they have a little more money and time to build stronger, more self-sufficient families and communities.
A senior O’Malley aide said Thursday the governor supports raising the minimum wage in Maryland and is still considering whether to introduce legislation to do so in January.
The Baltimore City Council is backing a resolution, sponsored by City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke, that calls on the state to raise the minimum wage.
The effort is supported by Raise Maryland, a coalition of labor unions, faith organizations and other groups.