Maryland lawmakers propose raising minimum wage

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7 KPLC News, Jan 18 2011

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ANNAPOLIS, MD (CNN) - Lawmakers in Maryland are debating raising the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10 an hour over the next two years.

The legislation is touted as a stimulus package for the state and supporters say that the increase will pump more than $1 billion into the economy.

State senator Rob Garagiola (D) said studies indicate that raising minimum wage does not encourage job loss.

"You get a positive economic impact in helping those middle-class workers be able to pay their mortgage, pay their bills and meet their family obligations," Garagiola said.

The formula is based on the assumption that 325,000 minimum-wage workers statewide would spend all of what amounts to a $5,000 year raise.

Many people feel that the increase is overdue.

Minimum wage workers earn an average of $15,000 a year.

"If you work eight hours a day, you at least ought to be able to afford to put a roof over your head, you ought to be able to afford some health care, you ought to be able to afford gas in an automobile. You can't support a family on what we now call the minimum wage," said Sen. C. Anthony Muse.

John Shepley, co-owner of Emory Knoll Farms, said paying workers higher than the minimum is good for business.

"It actually decreases our employee turnover significantly. It's very hard to put your finger on the cost of losing a valued employee, but it's expensive," he said. "So, what happens is, since we try to pay above the going rate for the kind of employees that we hire, people tend to not leave us because they found what they consider to be a better job."

The proposed bill is expected to be a hard sell in the General Assembly. Republicans and the Democratic state Senate president are expected to oppose it.