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Md. business coalition backs minimum wage hike

Four dozen business owners and executives signed on to a petition Tuesday urging the passage of legislation in Annapolis that would bump the state’s minimum wage to $9.75 an hour in 2013.

The statement read, in part: “With less buying power than it had in the 1950s and 60s, today’s minimum wage means poverty for working families and undermines our economy. A higher minimum wage makes good sense for our Maryland economy. It puts money in the hands of the people who will put it right back into local businesses.”

Read the full statement, from Business for Shared Prosperity, here.

“The minimum wage used to go up regularly with rising worker productivity,” Roger Rath, Senior Vice President of Janney Montgomery Scott in Towson, said in a written statement. “Now, productivity rises, and CEO pay goes up, but workers get left behind. That’s not just unfair, it’s bad economics.”

The effort is likely to be an unsuccessful one. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Mac Middleton and House Economic Matters Committee Chairman Dereck Davis said as much earlier this month.

They both said they respected the effort, but said it is just not a good time increase costs for businesses.

Here’s Middleton: “I think it heightened the awareness of the gap between the rich and poor.” But, he added, “I don’t see any appetite on the committee to pass the bill, myself included.”

The minimum wage bills, HB 988 and SB 716, would step the state’s minimum wage from the federally mandated $7.25 to $8.25 starting July 1. A year later, it would bump to $9 an hour, and in 2013, to $9.75. After that, it would be indexed to inflation.

The bill would also extend overtime rules to farm workers who work more than 48 hours in a week and raise minimum pay for employees who receive tips, from 50 percent of the minimum wage to 75 percent.

The proposal has faced stiff opposition from most other business groups worried about what they see as a fragile economic recovery.

“It is tough enough dealing with increased gas and inventory costs, but increasing the minimum wage will make the current tenuous situation far worse,” said Pat Donoho, president of the Maryland Retailers Association.