Congresswoman Speaks Out in Favor of Minimum Wage Bill

- ANNAPOLIS, Md. - One of the biggest topics in the Maryland General Assembly this year is minimum wage.

The bill passed in the Maryland House of Delegates and is making its way through the State House. The minimum wage bill also included a raise for tipped workers, such as those who wait tables, from 50 to 70 percent of the state's base pay, but the Maryland House of Delegates cut out tipped workers in the bill they passed.

Several dozen lawmakers, low-wage and tipped workers, and advocates made their voices known in Annapolis Wednesday in favor of a bill to raise the state's minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour by 2017.

Kevin Wheeler works at a restaurant at BWI Airport making $3.63 an hour before tips.

"Sometimes when it's slow, I need to get a second job, to get some more income, just so I can live, which cuts down and means less time I can spend with my family," Wheeler said.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, restaurant servers make about $8.80 an hour in Maryland. Congresswoman Donna Edwards was one of the people to speak out in Annapolis for tipped workers.

"If we're going to raise the regular minimum wage, it's important also to raise the wages of tipped workers. Otherwise, all the rest of us are actually subsidizing the profit margins for employers," said Edwards, (D-Maryland).

Supporters say making $10.10 an hour could help people become more self-sufficient and rely less on the government, but opponents say the bill could hurt businesses and those it's intended to help.

"When you look at some of the small businesses that are looking for those types of entry-level positions, we're going to see those positions decrease, and when you see those positions decrease, you have a higher unemployment rate," said Del. Kelly Schulz, (R) -Frederick County.

The last time Maryland had a minimum wage increase was in 2009.

"The difference that could make in people's lives is they could not have to rely on food stamps and government subsidies and housing subsidies, and everything taxpayers pay for," Edwards said. "That would put about another half billion dollars into Maryland's economy."

The bill is currently in a Senate work group. It will go to the Senate Finance Committee, and if it's passed there, it will then go to the Senate for a debate. Both the Senate and House will to agree on a final version of any minimum wage increase before a bill can head to the governor's desk. You can read the bill by clicking here.

Prince George's and Montgomery Counties passed their own bills to increase the county-wide minimum wage to $11.50 an hour by 2016.

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