The Maryland Senate holds session at the statehouse in Annapolis on March 14. (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)
The Maryland Senate holds session at the statehouse in Annapolis on March 14. (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)

Although the majority of Maryland lawmakers agreed to gradually increase the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour, a conference committee needed to be appointed to work out differences on the measure passed by the House and Senate.

Del. Dereck E. Davis (D-District 25) of Mitchellville and delegates C.T. Wilson (D-Charles County) and Kathleen Dumais (D-Montgomery County) represented the House.

Newly-elected Sen. Malcolm Augustine (D-District 47) Cheverly joined Sens. Delores Kelley (D-Baltimore County), Brian Feldman (D-Montgomery County) to represent the Senate.

After deliberations Tuesday, they agreed to allow small businesses with 14 or fewer employees to increase the minimum wage by July 1, 2026. The House measure increased the wage for all workers by 2025, but the Senate version had those employees rise to $15 an hour by 2028.

Augustine said the other major change would grant a 4 percent increase in state funding for companies who have workers who serve people with disabilities. Both chambers previously agreed to require different levels of funding in the state budget.

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)

Now both chambers must approve the changes before the bill heads to Hogan’s desk.

“I’m very, very appreciative of [Finance Committee chairwoman Delores Kelley] and the leadership of the Senate for me to be a part of a very important negotiation,” Augustine said. “I didn’t take it lightly.”

Supporters have said the bill would allow more than 500,000 Marylanders a chance to not only earn a livable wage, but also contribute back into the economy.

“Just knowing the people back home and people across the state of Maryland are counting on good decisions similar to the one that was made today,” said Sen. Cory McCray (D-Baltimore City), who sponsored the legislation and elected to the Senate in November. “You’re left feeling like you make tough choices a lot of times in the General Assembly, but today I felt like the little guy won.”

Not everyone supported the measure such as Sen. Justin Ready (R-Carroll County) and posted his thoughts on Twitter before he voted against it.

“I’m opposed to this bill which will exacerbate youth unemployment and hurt our small businesses and regional competitiveness. Artificially raising wages will not help the people it’s aimed at,” he said.

However, Hogan sent a “compromise” letter to the presiding officers for a minimum wage increase to $12.10 by 2022. The state’s current wage is $10.10 an hour.

During a press conference Monday, March 18 in Annapolis, Hogan outlined a few figures Monday on how small businesses would face 48 percent increase in costs; the state would lose an estimated 99,000 jobs; and a decrease in $61 billion in the next decade.

When asked if Hogan would veto that any other legislation such as the House approved $46.7 billion budget, he said would look into it if the bill came across his desk.

The Maryland Fight for $15 coalition hopes Hogan reconsiders.

“The state’s current $10.10 minimum wage isn’t working for hundreds of thousands of Maryland households,” Ricarra Jones, chair of the Fight for $15 coalition, said in a statement. “Today’s Senate vote to pass this bill following a majority vote in the House is a solid step forward for hard-working Marylanders. We are thankful to our bill sponsors and all the legislators who have fought to raise the wage floor to help working families by putting money back into their pockets to address the rising costs of housing, childcare and other expenses.”

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