Maryland Approves $15 Minimum Wage; Waits Governor's Approval - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Maryland Approves $15 Minimum Wage; Waits Governor's Approval

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CAMBRIDGE, Md.- One step away from becoming law, a bill raising Maryland's minimum wage to $15 has the General Assembly's approval.

As the bill currently stands, certain businesses will begin increasing their wages year by year until reaching the $15 cap by 2025. The first increase would take place January of next year at a minimum of $11 per hour. Tipped workers, however, will not see increased wages as long as their total pay meets or exceeds $15.

The bill now awaits final approval from Governor Larry Hogan, who has expressed concern over the bill along with many on the Eastern Shore.

Bill Chambers, executive director of the Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce, says some owners may outright kill jobs and downsize on staff and hours if the bill becomes law. Some may even move to neighboring and more affordable states. It's a bill, Chambers says, costing not only employers but customers like Kenny Walton too.

Sitting at a table inside Overflow Cafe on Thursday, Walton savors the taste and the price of his daily cup of coffee. But he soon could be paying more for his coffee - one of many things that could increase in price thanks to a wage increase.

"Gas is going to go up. Food is going to go up. You know everything is just going to go up," Walton said.

Earlier in the week, Maryland lawmakers voted in favor of what's called the "Fight For $15" bill. A vote that fell largely along party lines with Democrats pushing the bill. Eastern Shore Del. Sheree Sample-Hughes of District 37A argue increased living costs in places like Baltimore and even Salisbury are holding back workers struggling to live.

"Let's not kid ourselves, the rent and the living wages in these areas on the Eastern Shore are high," Sample-Hughes said. 

But workers pocketing extra cash could come at a price. Simmons Center Market owner Ricky Travers says the increased wages would force product prices up, and for some, a cut in employee hours - all in an effort to offset money leaving the register.

"It's a lot of roadblocks being thrown in the way of small independent businesses," Travers said. "The local independent businesses cannot just absorb these types of increases."

Hogan has six days to decide whether he will veto or approve the $15 minimum wage. Even if he decides to veto, Maryland's legislature can vote to override, officially turning the bill into state law.

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