Cumberland Times-News

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February 2, 2014

Commission continues minimum wage debate

CUMBERLAND — Allegany County Commissioner Bill Valentine said last week that increasing the state’s minimum wage is one issue where ”something is definitely going to happen” during this year’s General Assembly session. Most county leaders in the state oppose a proposal to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, believeing the increase is too large. That proposal is supported by Gov. Martin O’Malley

The Maryland Association of Counties has not taken a position on the proposal, Valentine said. Another bill with more support would tie Maryland’s minimum wage to the federal amount, but allow individual counties to increase the minimum wage, Valentine said. Both the Maryland and federal minimum wage are currently set at $7.25 an hour. Valentine has already visited Annapolis to get a foothold on issues in the General Assembly which might impact Allegany County.

Unlike the minimum wage, there doesn’t seem to be great enthusiasm for tinkering with environmental laws, Valentine said. Allegany County commissioners have expressed concern about the possible expansion of the so-called “rain tax” to the county. Currently, Allegany County is exempt from the tax. The fee is charged for storm water management caused by property development. “I don’t think we have to worry about Allegany County being included in that,” Valentine said.

One item on Allegany County’s wish list, and on the wish list of many other counties and municipalities, has been the restoration of highway user funds. Valentine said he doubts there will be any significant changes in the situation this year. While there could be some increase in the user funds for localities, it will be very small, Valentine said.

 Over the years, there has been a sharp decline in highway user funds, which have been diverted by the state for other purposes, including mass transit in urban areas. In 2009, Allegany County received just over $4 million in highway user funds from various state revenues for use on county roads and bridges. For fiscal 2013, that number was down to just over $400,000, county officials said.

“Allegany County in partnership with the Maryland Association of Counties respectfully requests that the delegation seek an incremental restoration of (highway user funds) back to local governments,” county officials said last year in a document submitted to local legislators.    

The discussion on legislative issues took place Thursday at a work session at county offices on Kelly Road.

Matthew Bieniek can be contacted at mbieniek@times-news.com.

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