Maryland’s minimum wage will rise to $10.10 over the next four years under a bill passed Monday night. Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) is expected to sign the law, which will make the state the 23rd to set its pay floor higher than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.
Maryland will also be the second state to mandate a $10.10 minimum wage after Connecticut passed similar legislation that phases the wage hike in more quickly. Barring major legislative action in other states or in Congress, the two states will have the highest minimum wages in the nation once the laws apply in full.
The $10.10 figure is still far below a living wage and significantly below the pay rate necessary to support a family in many parts of the country. It is also less than half of what the minimum wage would be if it had grown at the same rate as either worker productivity or the earnings of the richest 1 percent of Americans over the years. But if imposed nationally, a $10.10 minimum wage would raise about 5 million people out of poverty — most of them adults, many of them with children, and nearly all of them currently reliant on public assistance programs to make ends meet despite being employed.
The $10.10 level is significant in large part because progressive federal lawmakers set that figure as their target in a campaign to raise the minimum wage nationwide more than a year ago. The number represents what the minimum wage would have to be today to provide the same buying power that the minimum wage offered workers more than 40 years ago. President Obama raised his own target minimum wage level from $9 an hour in his 2013 State of the Union to $10.10 later in the year. The broader push dates back to 2012, when a group of 18 House Democrats proposed raising the federal minimum wage to $10.
But Republicans have blocked a national wage hike, often citing concerns about jobs and claiming that small businesses in particular would suffer. There is ample evidence in both academic research and real-world case studies, however, that raising wages does not hurt job growth and even boosts the economy. An overwhelming majority of small business owners polled say they want a $10.10 minimum wage and anticipate that it would help their bottom line by putting more spending money into local people’s pockets. Despite vocal opposition to wage laws from the right-wing National Federation of Independent Business, its own member survey shows that small business owners rank minimum wage laws 52nd out of 75 issues that worry them.
Republicans’ refusal to take up a national wage hike has caused workers and their advocates to take the fight to statehouses instead, and Maryland’s new law is unlikely to be the last of its kind this year. Over 30 states will see minimum wage hike campaigns of one form or another. With O’Malley’s signature, Maryland will become the fourth state to enact a wage hike this year.