The minimum wage is set to go up in Montgomery and Prince George's counties by 2017.
Members of the Maryland General Assembly head back to Annapolis next week for the start of the 2014 session. Delegates and senators from Montgomery County say boosting the state minimum wage will be one of their top priorities.
On January 1, new higher minimum wages went into effect in 13 states across the country — but Maryland was not one of them. Despite being one of the most liberal and wealthy states, workers at the bottom of the pay scale here make the same $7.25 an hour as they would in much cheaper and redder states, like Kansas or Idaho.
"We're talking about a raise for 466,000 workers, who are stuck at the minimum wage level in the state, and that translates into nearly a half-billion dollars more economic spending," says State Senator Jamie Raskin, one of 26 Democratic lawmakers from Montgomery County who are pledging to raise the minimum wage this session.
While he acknowledges it could be a hard fight in an election year, he says he hasn't heard opposition from business groups. "Working poor are not stowing their money away in Swiss bank accounts and investing in stocks on Wall Street. They are spending their money immediately, so it turns over quickly and stimulates the economy," he says.
Two months ago, the Montgomery County Council voted to raise the local minimum wage to $11.50 by 2017, but it won't start rising until October. State lawmakers are backing a more modest rise to $10.10 by the year 2016.