Cumberland Times-News

Local News

September 4, 2013

Area owners, lawmakers say no to Md. wage bump

CUMBERLAND — A proposal that would raise the minimum wage to $12.50 per hour isn’t popular with the local business community or political leaders.

Similar proposals have met legislative dead ends in the past few years, but state Sen. George Edwards isn’t willing to predict the same for the current proposal.

“In this state, you never know,” Edwards said.

While it would be nice for everyone to make more money, the simple economics, especially in rural areas, could be devastating. Increasing the minimum wage increases the taxes employers have to pay, and the sales volume for most businesses in rural areas simply doesn’t bring in sufficient cash for a big jump in the current $7.25 per hour minimum wage, Edwards said.

The proposal by Delegate Keith E. Haynes of Baltimore will likely be pre-filed before the 2014 General Assembly session, according to a press release from Haynes.

Haynes said many of his constituents and workers “across the state struggle on a daily basis to make ends meet and oftentimes have to work two minimum wage jobs in order to make those ends meet. Unfortunately, most of the time the ends do not meet,” Haynes said. “Many of my constituents are really hurting. It is very hard to survive, much less live, on a minimum wage salary and we need to do what we can to increase the quality of living for people in this state,” Haynes said.

Delegate Kevin Kelly said he also would oppose the bill.

“It would be extremely detrimental to business, especially to small business. With all the uncertainty over Obamacare and the economic recession, some legislator from Baltimore proposes basically doubling the minimum wage? It’s ludicrous,” Kelly said. The proposal would “run businesses out of the state,” he said.

The Allegany County Chamber of Commerce opposes the proposal.

“As a business organization, the Allegany County Chamber of Commerce opposed an effort to increase the minimum wage in Maryland during the 2013 legislative session. ... In addition to the obvious effect it would have on businesses in Maryland, it is important to be cognizant of Maryland’s competitiveness especially when such proposals are so far above the current federal minimum wage and the minimum wages of surrounding states,” said Stu Czapski, the chamber’s executive director.

Last year, House Bill 1204 and a companion Senate bill would have increased the state minimum wage to $8.25 or up to the federal minimum wage if it is higher. The bills did not make it to the governor’s desk.

Allegany County Commissioner Michael McKay, who owns a dry cleaning business, said he opposes the proposal as well.

“Politicians trying to score points on feel-good legislation, for example the minimum wage increase, without the hard facts, boggles my mind. Small businesses are already affected by the increase in cost of utilities, supplies and general cost of goods. Many small businesses have had to absorb these costs just to stay open for business,” McKay said.

McKay said an increase would affect workers, not only employers.

“Increasing the minimum wage affects not just the worker receiving minimum wage but everyone else above this arbitrary wage. These costs generated by this proposed legislation will have to be passed on to the consumer. Note this is the same consumer whose daily expenses have been steadily on the rise due to poor leadership in Washington and Annapolis,” McKay said.

Edwards agreed with that assessment, especially for young people in their first job, trying to save for school or a car, a jump in the minimum wage could mean fewer jobs are available, because businesses would be forced to cut back on the number of employees.

Edwards said many employers in the area actually do start employees at more than minimum wage and try to give good employees raises and benefits when they can.

Contact Matthew Bieniek at mbieniek@times-news.com.

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