Maryland’s Senate voted Thursday to gradually increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour, which supporters say will allow more than 500,000 residents a chance to not only earn a livable wage, but contribute to the economy as well.
The majority-Democrat Senate passed the bill on a 32-15 vote. The legislation now heads to a joint committee with the House, which recently passed its own version of the historic measure.
“Just knowing the people back home and people across the state of Maryland are counting on good decisions similar to the one that was made today,” said Sen. Cory McCray (D-Baltimore City), who sponsored the legislation. “You’re left feeling like you make tough choices a lot of times in the General Assembly, but today I felt like the little guy won.”
Not everyone supported the measure. Sen. Justin Ready (R-Carroll County) aired his thoughts on Twitter before voting against it.
“I’m opposed to this bill which will exacerbate youth unemployment and hurt our small businesses and regional competitiveness,” he tweeted. “Artificially raising wages will not help the people it’s aimed at.”
The Senate and House versions of the bills differ slightly. The House version increases the wage by 2025, but the Senate allows small businesses with 14 or fewer employees to raise the hourly wage to $15 by 2028.
Members from both chambers must form a committee to hash out that and other minor details before legislation is sent to the Republican governor’s desk for a signature.
However, Gov. Larry Hogan sent a “compromise” letter to the presiding officers for a minimum hourly wage increase to $12.10 by 2022. The state’s current wage is $10.10.
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. said earlier this week Hogan would probably veto the bill.
The Maryland Fight for $15 coalition hopes the governor reconsiders.
“The state’s current $10.10 minimum wage isn’t working for hundreds of thousands of Maryland households,” Ricarra Jones, chair of the Fight for $15 coalition, said in a statement. “Today’s Senate vote to pass this bill following a majority vote in the House is a solid step forward for hard-working Marylanders. We are thankful to our bill sponsors and all the legislators who have fought to raise the wage floor to help working families by putting money back into their pockets to address the rising costs of housing, childcare and other expenses.”