Ehrlich considers increase to minimum wage

May 14, 2005, midnight | By Feza Kikaya | 15 years, 5 months ago

Blair staff share views on long-overdue legislation

A bill to increase Maryland's minimum wage above the federal level from $5.15 to $6.15 an hour is currently under review by Governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. If approved, the legislation would take effect Oct. 1. The last time the federal wage was increased was in 1997.

Maryland's initiative

According to The Washington Post, the Senate voted 30-16 on March 3 to approve the bill, which is enough to overturn a possible veto. However, the Senate's earlier addition to the bill, which would provide exemptions for employers that offer health care for their workers, failed to pass after being emphasized by Republicans. Members of the House of Representatives voted 84-50 on March 24 in support of the bill and included no exemptions. The House was one vote short of overriding a veto if necessary.

Groups such as the Maryland Chamber of Commerce oppose the bill because they believe that increasing the state's minimum wage $1 above federal level will prompt those employed for earnings above that amount to also expect a raise in salary.

Senior Helen Tefera, a Papa Johns employee, stated that she would expect her current wages of $5.50 an hour to increase if the bill passes because she makes an amount that is close to the federal minimum wage.

Ehrlich also expressed concerns about the impact of the bill on small business owners; however, has not stated whether he will approve or veto the legislation.

While some are concerned about the bill, others embrace the legislation and look forward to the positive impact it will have on residents of Maryland. Tom Hucker, executive director of Progressive Maryland, told Post reporters of his complete support of the bill he believes should have been enacted a long time ago. "This is a modest, responsible, long-overdue raise for hardworking families in Maryland," said Hucker to The Washington Post.

Public concerns

Blair accounting teacher Jacquelyn Shropshire agrees with Hucker, but argues that an increase of $1 is "not enough." Shropshire believes that the proposed amount still will not permit people to live decently as independents because those that depend on the minimum wage are "people who are just existing and don't have lifestyles," she said. Furthermore, Shropshire believes that the minimum wage should be increased by a larger amount because "minimum wage has not increased despite inflation," and thus there has been net financial loss. To better illustrate her point, Shropshire stated that her $2 an hour minimum wage job in the 1960s when she was a full-time student in college went farther than $5.15 an hour would today.

The misconception about minimum wage

"Debating the minimum wage," an article published in The Economist in 2001, presents a study on an ongoing discussion about the issue and shows there is no correlation between the minimum wage and the number of people employed. However, according to AP Economics teacher Brian Hinkle, employment will decrease if wages are raised because of the current state of the U.S. economy. "It can be good to increase minimum wage, but you have to do it when times are good," he said, stating that currently "our real income is decreasing," which means "the money we're making is not worth much."

Fourteen states and the District of Columbia currently have income standards above the federal level.

The bill would affect 55,300 Marylanders if approved. Currently, about two-thirds of the state's minimum-wage workers are employed by industries; more than half are younger than 25.

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Feza Kikaya. Feza Kikaya is finally a SENIOR in the CAP program at Blair. She enjoys driving, hanging out with friends and laughing. Most importantly, Feza is counting down the days to graduation so she can begin a new chapter of her life in college. Her favorite … More »

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