Mary Pat & District 14 IN THE NEWS

Issue of raising Baltimore minimum wage could come up at City Hall before election

Rick Seltzer | March 2, 2016, 7:31AM
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Baltimore mayoral candidates have recently propelled the idea of a $15 city minimum wage into the conversation, but the issue could surface at City Hall before November's election.

Democratic City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke is preparing legislation to boost the minimum wage in the city, and Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young backs the idea. Meanwhile, outgoing Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake would look at any minimum wage proposals, but she has traditionally backed regional or statewide increases, her office said.

The possibility of a city minimum wage hike comes as the $15 per hour number has been increasingly discussed by interest groups and politicians across the country, including Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. In Baltimore it's been a part of recently unveiled plans from high-profile mayoral candidates like former Mayor Sheila Dixon and civil rights activist DeRay Mckesson.

Proposals to increase the minimum wage often turn controversial as backers say workers' spending power has slipped and businesses warn of the negative impact of cost increases. Maryland's minimum wage is set to jump from $8.25 per hour to $8.75 per hour on July 1 under a law creating stepped increases that will eventually top out at $10.10 per hour in 2018.

Clarke on Wednesday declined to discuss her plans for city minimum wage legislation because she is still in the drafting process. Lester Davis, a spokesman for Young, said he expects a bill calling for $15 per hour in the coming weeks.

"We knew that was something she was going to be doing and the council president supports," Davis said. "He's always been for making sure that people who put in an honest day's work can make a decent wage."

Asked Wednesday about a city minimum wage increase passing during the final months of her term, Rawlings-Blake said she was not against evaluating proposals. But the specifics would have to be weighed against economic factors, she said.

"If you take a look at wages as it relates to the relative value of the dollar, wages have slipped and for too many people in our city and in our country, they've gone from being able to support their families on one job to now having multiple jobs," the mayor said. "The effects are being felt — the ripple effects throughout our community."

Rawlings-Blake spokesman Howard Libit later said the mayor has supported regional or state legislation over the city going it alone.


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