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Miller predicts changes to O’Malley minimum wage bill

With Maryland’s top three Democrats on board, an increase in the state’s minimum wage may look like the stone cold lock of the 2014 General Assembly session but exactly how much the increase will be and other details may not be so certain.

Gov. Martin J. O'Malley

Gov. Martin O’Malley is making raising the minimum wage to $10.10 one of his top priorities for the 2014 General Assembly Session.

Gov. Martin J. O’Malley announced Monday that increasing the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 per hour was tops on his to-do list for his last 90-day session.

But Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller raised concerns about the proposal and predicted significant changes to the governor’s plan days O’Malley released his legislative agenda.

“It’s going to be a very tough sell—the bill as it is now,” Miller said last week. “I’m telling you, it’s going to be a very tough sell.”

Miller predicted that there will be an increase but said he wasn’t sure what that might look like other than to say “it’s going to be different, in my opinion, from what the governor has proposed and it’s going to be different from what the people in Prince George’s and Montgomery County have already enacted.”

Miller called the recently enacted minimum wage of $11.50 per hour in both those counties “not sustainable” in other parts of the state. He said that means the legislature will either have to supersede those counties and enact one state rate, which he predicted would anger legislators from those two counties, or pass a bill with different rates for different areas of the state.

“So I’m trying to find a way out of dodge and that’s finding a compromise with 24 votes to move forward,” Miller said.

Also concerning to Miller is the proposal in O’Malley’s bill that would link future automatic increases to the minimum wage to inflation much the same way the legislature did last year in passing a gas tax.

Miller said the idea of indexing the wage was rejected the last time the legislature took up the issue.

“I think people are reluctant to give away their voting power for a future generation of lawmakers,” Miller said.

Indexing the minimum wage to inflation is a concern for Del. Dereck E. Davis, chairman of the House Economic Matters Committee.

“Folks don’t want to fight the same fights,” Davis said in a December interview [subscriber access]. “They want to win once and be done with it. I see the advantages of that but this is what we were elected to do. These are policies worthy of public discussion.”