Waging The Wage War
While Congress debated the minimum wage this week, Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley (D) took Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) to task last week for not supporting federal and state efforts to raise the minimum wage. This raised a question among Ehrlich aides: Why hasn't O'Malley, who was elected in 1999, sought to raise the minimum wage in Baltimore?
Only a handful of cities around the country -- the District among them -- have taken the initiative. But Baltimore seemingly has the authority to do so under Maryland law, said Linda Sherman, a spokeswoman for the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, which enforces wage laws in Maryland.
"Once again, Martin O'Malley is pledging to do for Maryland citizens what he has failed to do for Baltimore," said Ehrlich campaign spokeswoman Shareese DeLeaver.
O'Malley spokesman Rick Abbruzzese said it would hurt Baltimore's small businesses if the minimum wage were higher within the city's borders than in the rest of Maryland.
"The governor of Maryland should not be trying to pit one jurisdiction against another," Abbruzzese said. "I guess if Bob Ehrlich had his way, we'd all still be making $4.25 an hour."
Abbruzzese was referring to a vote Ehrlich cast while a member of Congress in 1996 against raising the federal minimum wage, which was $4.25 at time. In an op-ed that appeared in the Baltimore Sun that year, Ehrlich wrote that "increasing the minimum wage is a political panacea for some politicians, but it is bad economics for all Americans."
The federal standards now sits at $5.15 an hour. This year, the Maryland General Assembly overrode an Ehrlich veto to raise the state's minimum to $6.15.
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