Maryland Workers Get Tricked While State Businesses Get Treats
New brief details how Maryland businesses got $30 million in incentives from the General Assembly while the state’s lowest paid workers got nothing
BALTIMORE – Maryland policymakers have put business interests ahead of those of working families, according to a new report compiled by Raise Maryland, the campaign to raise the state’s minimum wage. The brief was released at a Halloween event where low-wage workers in Halloween costumes handed out candy with messages encouraging a minimum wage increase at fast food restaurants and businesses at a shopping center in Northwest Baltimore.
During the 2013 Maryland General Assembly, lawmakers granted state businesses $30 million in subsidies while a bill to raise the state’s minimum wage failed, leaving low-wage workers to struggle on a minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.
Lawmakers approved subsidies for biotech businesses, research and development and cyber-security firms along with a film industry tax credit. A controversial measure to exempt Lockheed Martin from paying the Montgomery County hotel tax netted a $450,000 subsidy for the giant defense and aerospace company.
“We’ve got to change the priorities of our elected officials and make sure they remember the needs of the people that they represent,” said Rev. Lovi of West Baltimore. “Business development is important but making sure that Maryland workers and their families can support themselves is surely a higher concern.”
Maryland legislators have shown that they want to be friendly to industry, but their support for economic activity seems one-sided: Maryland is the highest-ranked state in the U.S. for investment in research and development according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, yet the legislature failed to approve a basic investment in the 530,000 low-paid workers in Maryland who would have benefited from raising the minimum wage to $10 per hour.
“Maryland’s minimum wage hasn’t changed since 2009 but the cost of living, including gas, rent, food and utilities most certainly has,” said Ricarra Jones, Chair of the Raise Maryland campaign. “Our elected officials must act to raise the minimum wage during the 2014 General Assembly which will act as a local business stimulus while helping Maryland’s working families.”
Momentum is building in Maryland to increase the state’s minimum wage. The Baltimore City Council, Montgomery County Council and the Charles County Board of Commissioners have all passed resolutions calling for a minimum wage of at least $10 an hour and indexing and each of the Democratic 2014 gubernatorial candidates have announced their support for a raise.
The proposed legislation would raise Maryland’s minimum wage in three steps to $10.10 per hour by 2016 and index it to the cost of living thereafter so that it doesn’t lose value over time. The legislation also incorporates an increase for tipped workers (from 50 percent to 70 percent of the prevailing minimum wage).
Research has found that approximately 472,000 Marylanders would benefit from the increase, putting $466 million more in their pockets in the next two years. At the same time, businesses would benefit from nearly half a billion dollars in new consumer spending and would create more than 4,000 new full-time jobs as they expand to meet increased demand.
Raise Maryland is a diverse coalition of community, labor, immigrant, civil rights and faith organizations united to pass a statewide minimum wage increase indexed to inflation.