Minimum wage may be on the back burner in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, but it's moving ahead in the states. Maryland is on the brink of becoming the second state to increase its minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, with General Assembly holding a final vote
Monday and Gov. Martin O'Malley's signature a certainty as he campaigned for an even stronger measure. It's not a perfect bill
; $10.10 won't be reached until 2018, and:
It also freezes the base wage for tipped workers at $3.63 per hour, which is 50 percent of the federal minimum wage but not the proposed state wage. O’Malley had proposed increasing that base wage to 70 percent of the state’s minimum wage, which eventually could have been more than $7 per hour.
Businesses would also be allowed to pay a lower training wage — 85 percent of the state minimum wage — to workers under the age of 20 for their first six months. And some businesses are set to be exempt from paying the full higher state minimum: seasonal amusement parks, cafes and restaurants with annual income below $400,000 and the state’s one drive-in movie theater.
Those are some significant loopholes, and a $3.63 tipped worker minimum, while substantially higher than the federal rate of $2.13 an hour, is likely to keep high poverty rates
among tipped workers. Still, Maryland is making progress, which is more than you can say of the federal government.
Maryland isn't the only state working on this issue. Legislators in Minnesota are close to a deal to raise their state's minimum wage to $9.50 an hour, with increases tied to inflation but within the governor's power to veto. And in Massachusetts, the state House and Senate are agreed on raising the minimum wage above $10.10 an hour, but they can't agree whether to raise it to $10.50 an hour and pass it along with unemployment insurance reform, as the House wants, or separate those issues and raise the minimum wage to $11 an hour, as the Senate wants.
"Maryland’s important action is a reminder," President Barack Obama said in a statement following the vote, "that many states, cities and counties—as well as a majority of the American people—are way ahead of Washington on this crucial issue." Count Minnesota and Massachusetts in that reminder as well.