Gov. Martin O'Malley made a statewide increase in the minimum wage a priority in his last state of the state speech on Jan. 23, 2014.
The first day of hearings on several bills that would raise the minimum wage in Maryland took place this afternoon in Annapolis.
Today it was the House Economic Matters Committee that took up the six different bills dealing with the state's minimum wage in one way or another. The headlining measure comes from Gov. Martin O'Malley, and it would raise the wage to $10.10 per hour by the year 2016.
O'Malley did not testify as originally scheduled because of a funeral, but he did show up about an hour in just as delegates started questioning Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown. O'Malley told lawmakers that so-called "trickle-down economics" favored by Republicans have dominated nationally for 30 years and depressed wages. The governor said claims that the theory works aren't true.
"I would submit to you that if that were true, we would not have been coming through recession but a great period of unprecedented prosperity," O'Malley said.
But one Democrat on the committee delivered the most stinging criticism of the governor's plan, showing the distance O'Malley still has to go in selling his bill to his own party, which dominates the General Assembly. Baltimore County delegate Joseph Minnick ran a bar and restaurant for many years until it closed recently.
"To put the small businessman in this position — let him run his business the way he sees it best," Minnick said. "Because we know best how to run a business. We shouldn't have the state telling us what we should pay our workers."
On Thursday, the Senate Finance Committee will also take up several bills regarding the minimum wage, including the governor's proposal.