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Living Wage is Back

A bill that has been dormant for weeks -- which would require state contractors to pay their employees a "living wage" -- is springing to life in the waning days of the session.

The legislation, which calls for hourly wages of $11.95, was endorsed by Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) in his State of the State address in January. But the bill has remained in a House committee because it appeared unlikely to advance in the Senate.

Earlier in the session, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) voiced concerns about whether the wages prescribed by the bill are warranted in all parts of the state.

In response, aides to O'Malley recently crafted amendments that would set the wage requirement at $11.30 an hour in Montgomery, Prince George's, Howard, Anne Arundel and Baltimore counties and in Baltimore. The requirement would be $8.50 elsewhere.

Miller said the approach was acceptable but would defer to his chamber's finance committee chairman, Sen. Thomas M. Middleton (D-Charles). Middleton, who was summoned Tuesday for a meeting with O'Malley, said yesterday that he thinks the bill could pass before the session ends at midnight Monday.

"The governor has an interest in getting the bill passed," Middleton said. "Time is moving on, but if you get the giants lined up -- the governor, the president and the speaker -- it's amazing how fast a bill can fly."

By yesterday afternoon, a House committee had started considering the amended bill.

John Wagner and Lisa Rein

By Phyllis Jordan  |  April 5, 2007; 10:23 AM ET
Categories:  General Assembly  
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Posted by: rOBIN fICKER | April 5, 2007 2:47 PM | Report abuse

Just when I thought the General Assembly couldn't think up any more bad ideas. . .

At a time when the state is facing a huge deficit, it makes no sense to increase the costs the state must pay on its contracts.

The idea of a "living wage" makes little economic sense, anyway. The labor of some people simply is not worth whatever artificial wage the state sets. It's much better to let the market work this out rather than have the state put people out of work by mandating wages that their labor cannot command.

Posted by: MK | April 5, 2007 3:40 PM | Report abuse

And is there anyone foolish enough not to realize that state tax revenues will drop because of this bill alone as many businesses and consumers cross state lines in search of lower costs?

Posted by: Rufus | April 5, 2007 4:13 PM | Report abuse

Why should our tax dollars be used to create more poverty in Maryland, poverty in which we as taxpayers then have to subsidize through social service benefits? For every full time minimum wage worker, we as taxpayers spend an additional $9,000 per year in supplemental benefits.

Living Wage legislation moves workers and their families towards self-sufficiency and that is something that we all benefit from. Studies have shown that workers who are paid living wages tend to put any increase in income right back into the local economy. Self-sufficiency leads to increased morale, which results in low employee turnover and greater worker productivity.

Robin, the fiscal note states that there is a "potential moderate to minimal expenditure increase." Every study done has show a negligible increase in costs.

MK, I think that you equating living wages with putting people out of jobs is absurd. Should we really be concerned that private business are *possibly* going to net less money from service contracts when we as taxpayers, through social benefits, have to make up the difference in worker's income? I think not.....

Baltimore was the first municipality to enact a living wage ordinance and I think that the time has come for Maryland to be the first state in the nation to pass this significant legislation. Kudos to the sponsors of this important bill!

Posted by: KAP | April 5, 2007 4:43 PM | Report abuse

Apparently the Democrats don`t feel that they are blowing through the taxpayers` money quite fast enough. This ought to straighten that out. And now we`ll REALLY REALLY need a tax hike.

Posted by: gitarre | April 5, 2007 5:37 PM | Report abuse

Wow, it took you guys over 4 hours to start crapping on this issue. Must be a busy day in the Republican cave, hanging fresh meat on the walls, beating each others chests, and grunting "mmmm, taxes bad...all taxes bad....mine....mine...aarrrghhhh...mine"

Posted by: mdhawk | April 5, 2007 5:53 PM | Report abuse

"For every full time minimum wage worker, we as taxpayers spend an additional $9,000 per year in supplemental benefits."

I'm doubtful about this, since most people who work minimum wage either do so as the second wage earner in a family or as a third wage earner (such as teenagers). Very few people support themselves on the minimum wage.

Posted by: MK | April 5, 2007 7:29 PM | Report abuse

It's a shame it took a whole 4 hours to call this stupidity for what it was.

If you want to improve people's lives, help increase their skill sets and start by reforming the failing state-run public schools.

Posted by: Rufus | April 6, 2007 10:36 AM | Report abuse

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