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I am a longtime business owner and $15 wage 'scares me to death'

I am now aware that the Maryland House of Delegates last week passed an increase in the state’s minimum wage (House Bill 166). What a terrible piece of legislation and how discriminatory and unfair to the thousands of hardworking business owners who will most likely be run totally out of business by the dictatorial and mandated wages that they simply cannot afford to pay (“Maryland House of Delegates approves bill to raise state’s hourly minimum wage to $15 by 2025,” March 1).

I am aware that Del. Trent Kittleman read part of my letter to her fellow legislators wherein I expressed that passage of the minimum wage to $15 would increase my payroll by over $317,000 per year and that there is no way for me to find that kind of profit in my business. Further, I noted that it would force me into bankruptcy and cost me all of my assets and everything that I have worked for my entire life. Thank you, Delegate Kittleman, for your kind words. They are very much appreciated.

I am aware of Del. Wendell R. Beitzel’s plea about the harm that this legislation will bring to small businesses, especially in Western Maryland where West Virginia and Pennsylvania are only a few miles away. Those nearby states are where our business will go if menu prices are raised too much. Thank you, Delegate Beitzel, for your words of caution that obviously went unheeded.

Unfortunately, I am also aware of some other sad comments that were made by delegates that show cracks in our representative democracy. I have come to realize that the citizens are a controlled people who are actually controlled by the whims and wishes of 188 elected representatives. Now, that is in itself a very scary and frightening scenario. The 188 so-called representatives are actually the ruling class over the controlled people who are only allowed to have the illusion of a free society — as long as they obey all of the unwanted and unnecessary rules and laws that are passed by the ruling class.

I am also aware of a few sad comments. Del. Dereck Davis, the Prince George’s County Democrat who chairs the committee that reviewed the bill, questioned the claims from business owners who had predicted a “calamitous effect.” According to The Baltimore Sun, Delegate Davis said the state increased its minimum wage over the last four years from $7.25 to $10.10, and there are more businesses operating in the state. “If you are going to leave, leave. If you are going to close, close,” Davis said, “but you are hurting your own cause …when it starts to appear you’re crying wolf.”

What a sad, pathetic, uncaring statement for an elected representative to exclaim. It is also extremely revealing in that it clearly shows that he just doesn’t care about the thousands of business owners who will be facing bankruptcy by struggling with mandated wages that they cannot afford. If Delegate Davis thinks that I am crying wolf about the mandated $317,000 that I will be unable to afford, then when I am unable to pay my mortgage or meet my payroll perhaps I will give him a call and see if he has a solution for me.

Raising the minimum wage from $7.25 to $15? Wow, where is it going to stop? I guess when it gets to $15 some of the same people will be pushing for $18 or $20 per hour — all on the backs of the business owners. How un-American. You can’t legislate success. You must work for it!

As it happens, I spoke to Delegate Davis’s committee during its recent hearing about the minimum wage. I heard Del. Diana Fennell’s testimony that she was the proud sponsor of the bill. I have replayed her testimony over and over again and this is what I heard. She stated that, “women and people of color make up the vast majority of minimum wage workers in Maryland. She also stated that, “racism and sexism have caused women and people of color to be divided leaving them in low wage professions.” She further stated that, “raising the minimum wage to $15 would help reduce both gender and racial gaps.”

What I did not hear Delegate Fennell says was about any concern how mandated wages would be forced on the backs of the business owners placing them in a position where they simply could not pay the mandated wages and forcing them into bankruptcy! To me, the statements about women and “people of color” represent reverse discrimination! As a business owner, I feel discriminated against because my dictatorial government is about to mandate that I pay wages that I simply cannot afford. The profits to pay these higher wages will not be there! Yet no one seems to care about business owners like myself. The motive of the bill, as explained by its sponsor is to pull women and “people of color” out of poverty. How so very narrow-minded, uncaring and sad.

The tragic mistake that is being made is that the supporters of the bill are trying to make the minimum wage a “living wage” and it was never meant to be such. Minimum wage jobs, for the most part, are entry level jobs where a lot of people start out and work themselves up to better paying jobs. If the minimum wage is mandated to be $15, it will totally eliminate a sector of employment within our economy and cause thousands of bankruptcies, personal business tragedies and layoffs of thousands. Do you really think that I can bring a school kid into my restaurant for his first job when he knows nothing and pay him $15 per hour and place him alongside other longtime employees who may not be making much more than that? And this will cause disruption in my employment base? Do you really think that school kids roaming the streets of Baltimore are going to get hired for their first job and paid $15 per hour? No, they will be passed over and not hired at all.

So I ask state lawmakers, what are the citizens supposed to do when they are afflicted by uncaring representatives who have ulterior motives of passing legislation designed help women and “people of color” but the end result will be to force business owners into bankruptcies and out of business costing them all of their assets that they have worked hard for all of their lives? The citizens of Maryland should not have to fear a dictatorial government that sets wages so high that it puts employers out of business.

I hope all of our representatives will reconsider this terrible piece of legislation and place it in the trash can where it belongs before it can do so much harm to so many citizens. Frankly, as a business owner who has worked very hard to make my business successful for over 44 years, I am scared to death!

Of all of the business adversaries that I have faced and overcome over 44 years, state lawmakers are about to make my home state my number one enemy — the one that I will be unable to overcome and will force me out of business and cost me all of my assets!

I ask them to please reconsider.

Thomas R. Marsh, McCoole

The writer is owner of the Chat-N-Chew Restaurant.

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