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Montgomery County Increases Minimum Wage to $11.50, But Delays Raise To 2017

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As of 2017, the minimum wage in Montgomery County will rise to $11.50.
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As of 2017, the minimum wage in Montgomery County will rise to $11.50.

The Montgomery County Council has approved a bill raising the minimum wage in the county — but one major change was made to the measure before it passed.

By a slim 5-4 vote, the Council approved delaying the timeframe of the increase by one year, pushing the new $11.50 minimum wage in Montgomery County to 2017. The current minimum wage matches the federal level of $7.25 an hour.

The delay came after a surprisingly acrimonious debate unusual for the Council, with legislators accusing each other of not honestly having brought up the idea a one-year delay before Tuesday afternoon's vote.

Supporters of the delay say it's a compromise between the interests of workers and businesses, as it still raises wages, but allows employers to do it more slowly. In 2016, the minimum wage will rise to $10.75, before settling at $11.50 a year later.

"There are not votes for $11.50 in 2016," said Councilman George Leventhal.

The final bill passed on an 8-1 vote, with only Councilman Phil Andrews voting against. He said that Montgomery County shouldn't rush to act before the state moves on a possible increase during next year's session of the General Assembly.

Councilman Marc Elrich, the sponsor of the bill, says the final vote is a victory, even though he opposed the change in when it would take effect.

"This is significant. You're stepping out doing something that not everyone in the country has," Elrich says. "I get all the complicating factors. I just tried to get people to keep coming back to, 'What does it mean for the people?'"

Elrich spearheaded a regional approach, where the councils in neighboring D.C. and Prince George's County are also considering bills raising the minimum wage. He hopes they also adopt the delay his colleagues approved today.

"I hope they go ahead and add the extra year and adjust it to make everyone happy," he says. "We all lock hands and do this together. If they want to go ahead and do it earlier, that'd be great. D.C. has been a buck above us for a long time, but if we all get together however we get together, this is big."

Earlier this week a D.C. Council committee voted to approve a bill that would raise the city's minimum wage to $11.50 by 2016, indexing it to inflation thereafter. That's above what Mayor Vincent Gray has said he wants, $10, but below what labor activists are fighting for, $12.50.

The Prince George's County Council will vote on an increase today.

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