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McDonough calls for training wage

Entry-level workers could find their checks a little lighter under a bill proposed by one Maryland lawmaker.

Del. Pat McDonough, R-Baltimore County, said he plans to introduce a bill creating a training wage for new employees at companies of 100 workers or less.

“The idea is to stimulate employment and ensure there is an option for small businesses,” McDonough said in an interview this week.

McDonough said his bill, if passed, would apply if the General Assembly votes to increase the minimum wage from the current rate of $7.25 per hour.

“It’s a commonsense job bill I think both sides of the aisle can and should support,” McDonough said.

Del. Pat McDonough

“The idea is that small business owners and family-owned businesses can take a chance on a new employee,” said Del. Pat McDonough, R-Baltimore County (The Daily Record / Bryan P. Sears)

Under the delegate’s plan, businesses with 50 or fewer employees could hire an unskilled employee at $7.25 per hour, which is also the current federal minimum wage. The training rate would be effective for six months from the date of hire. After that the employer would have to increase the hourly wage to the state minimum.

Companies with between 50 and 100 employees could pay the lower rate for three months after the date of hire.

“The idea is that small business owners and family-owned businesses can take a chance on a new employee,” McDonough said.

“It’s not going to last forever,” he said. “Three months, six months go by very quickly and if the employee does a good job they can look forward to a bump up to the higher minimum wage.”

Proponents of a minimum wage increase would like to see the state rate go up from $7.25 to $10.10 per hour or even as high as $15 per hour. McDonough’s training-wage bill would create a lower tier locked in at the current federal minimum.

Matt Hanson, campaign director for Raise Maryland, said his organization opposed the creation of training wage in Maryland.

“We don’t think that’s something that makes sense,” said Hanson, whose group favors an increase in the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour.

Hanson said he’s concerned such a bill would mean seasonal and temporary workers would never be able to earn the higher minimum wage. Some fast-food businesses, he said, have annual turnover as high as 100 percent.

“It’s a question of what’s right and what’s fair,” said Hanson.

The concept of a training wage is not a new one.

In Michigan, state law allows for workers under the age of 20 to be paid a training wage for their first 90 days.

In Iowa, an employer can pay an “initial training wage” of $6.35 per hour — lower than the federal minimum wage — for the first 90 days of employment.

The National Conference of State Legislatures lists more 30 states with provisions for some type of subminimum youth or training wage.

McDonough said the wage would likely help “mostly young people get hired” but there would be no maximum age for an employee under his bill.

“Even old farts can be trained,” McDonough said.