Maryland workers protest outside the governor's mansion in Annapolis on March 13 for Gov. Larry Hogan to support legislation increasing the state's minimum hourly wage to $15. (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)
Maryland workers protest outside the governor's mansion in Annapolis on March 13 for Gov. Larry Hogan to support legislation increasing the state's minimum hourly wage to $15. (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)

ANNAPOLIS — The Maryland Senate gave preliminary approval Wednesday to gradually increasing the state’s minimum hourly wage to $15.

The Senate could officially vote on the bill Thursday or Friday, said Sen. Cory McCray (D-Baltimore City), who thanked former state Sen. Richard Maldaleno for presenting similar legislation two years ago and Del. Diana Fennell (D-District 47A) of Colmar Manor, who authored the House version.

“It’s a lot of people that’s struggling. It’s a lot of people working two jobs,” McCray said. “It’s a lot of kids walking themselves home from school because their mom and dad is working two jobs. I feel like we got it right on this one.”

The House bill approved March 1 doesn’t incorporate an amendment from the Senate that would allow small businesses with 14 or fewer employees to implement the $15 hourly wage by 2028. All other workers would receive $15 by 2025.

Maryland Senate holds a March 13 session at the state house in Annapolis on March 13. (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)

Before debate and hearings took place, proponents called for a “clean $15” legislation that would’ve increased the $15 wage by 2023.

A conference committee would be established with members from both chambers to resolve differences and agree on them before it would go to Gov. Larry Hogan’s desk for a signature.

Hogan offered a compromised to increase the minimum wage to $12.10 by 2022. The governor noted that neighboring states are below Maryland’s current minimum wage of $10.10. For instance, some workers in Virginia and Pennsylvania receive a minimum wage equal to the federal level of $7.25.

The figure is slightly higher in West Virginia and Delaware at $8.25, but scheduled to rise to $9.25 in October in Delaware.

The District’s current minimum hourly wage of $13.25 will increase to $14 in July and to $15 by July 2020.

Hogan’s proposal also increases the state’s earned income tax credit to 60 percent of the federal wage as a way to provide relief for low-income workers and not affect businesses.

“By cutting back your proposed increase, we can easily afford to offer this well documented and effective relief to working families,” Hogan wrote.

Several Republican senators offered similar amendments to Hogan’s proposal, but all of them failed.

Sen. Ronald N. Young (D-Frederick County) presented an amendment to have all workers receive $15 an hour by 2025, but it also was rejected.

“I think 2025 is a long time to get there, but 2028 is just way too long to me,” he said. “People aren’t making it now and they’re going to be making it less over the next eight or nine years.”

Because of this, McCray said the governor would probably veto a bill from the legislature. That means the House would need 85 votes to override Hogan’s veto and 29 from the Senate.

About three hours before the Senate reconvened Wednesday night, dozens of workers protested outside the governor’s mansion in a plea for the $15 hourly wage.

Lisa Williams of Baltimore, who earns $12.50 an hour as an environmental care services worker at Johns Hopkins Hospital, said she is “still struggling.”

The mother of three adult children said Hogan should support the legislation so parents can provide for child care services.

“If you work from 7 to 3 and the rec is open until 5, you have to two-hour grace period to catch the bus, go pick up your child and your child gets homework done and your child is being supervised,” she said. “Now the streets are supervising children because nobody is parenting them.”

Coverage for the Washington Informer includes Prince George’s County government, school system and some state of Maryland government. Received an award in 2019 from the D.C. Chapter of the Society of...

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