ANNAPOLIS – The House Thursday approved raising the minimum wage by $1, virtually guaranteeing the governor will see the proposal on his desk.
Delegates voted 84-50, with a mostly Democratic majority, to approve the increase, which would mean a $2,080 annual pay increase for full-time workers earning the current minimum of $5.15 an hour.
The raise would affect at least 28,000 — or 2 percent — of the 1.3 million Maryland workers paid by the hour, according to the U.S. Labor Department.
The presiding officers of both the House and Senate support raising the minimum wage by $1.
Gov. Robert Ehrlich on Thursday appeared to back away from his opposition to raising the minimum wage beyond the federally required rate, which was last raised in 1997.
“Obviously, the Senate version is better than the House version, and we’ll see what emerges,” Ehrlich said.
A conference committee to work out the differences between the two versions is expected to be appointed next week.
The Senate earlier this month passed a version of the bill that would allow employers to deduct the cost of the raise from the cost of providing health benefits to their employees.
The Senate version also exempts tip-earning and part-time workers, full-time students and disabled employees. The House version contains no such exemptions. But it would increase to $3.08 from $2.77 per hour the maximum amount employers may deduct from the minimum wage for tips earned by their employees.
Supporters of increasing the minimum wage said it would lead to raises for other employees earning slightly more than minimum wage. Opponents said the same thing, except they said it will force businesses to lay off employees or cut health benefits.
Delegate Herbert McMillan, R-Anne Arundel, said he opposed the raise because the number of people directly affected is not enough to justify harming small businesses.
“You’re not really helping anybody with this legislation,” McMillan said. “It’s symbolic at best — and (it’s) the worst kind of symbolism because you’re using somebody else’s money to make a point.”
Delegate Anne Marie Doory, D-Baltimore, said small businesses would benefit from the increase.
“Those workers at the lowest end of the employment level are going to be spending money at those small businesses,” she said.
Fifteen states have set a minimum wage higher than the federal rate. If Maryland joins those states, it would be on the lower end of those states, with the same scale as Delaware and Florida.