ROCKVILLE, Md. - Montgomery County Council has jumped ahead of its neighbors and has voted to raise the minimum wage by more than $4 by 2017.
After an hours-long debate that at times got deeply personal, the council voted 8-1 to approve the increase from the current $7.25 an hour to $11.50 an hour. The law would apply to county employees and private sector workers whose employers operate and do business in the county.
County Executive Ike Leggett is expected to sign the bill.
The minimum wage increase would be phased in so that workers would see an increase to $8.40 an hour by Oct. 1, 2014. The rate would increase again to $9.55 an hour by October 2015, then $10.75 an hour by October 2016 and finally hit the new $11.50 an hour mark by 2017.
Councilman Phil Andrews, who is making a run for county executive, was the only member to oppose the increase. Andrews said it was clear that the bill was being rushed through, and that the county could wait for the Maryland General Assembly to act.
Prince George's County and the District of Columbia also have been considering increases to the minimum wage. Supporters have argued for a regional approach to any increase.
The council also approved a number of amendments to the minimum wage bill. According to a county news release, the amendments would:
- Apply the county minimum wage to tipped employees by requiring employers to pay a base rate equal to half of the state minimum wage with an obligation to make up any shortfall in tips up to the county's minimum wage.
- Delete the health care credit.
- Add an exemption for a person under the age of 19 who works 20 hours or less in a week.
- Add a provision requiring the county executive to delegate enforcement to a state agency that enforces the state wage and hour law and is authorized to enforce a county minimum wage law.
- Add an anti-retaliation clause.
- Clarify that a worker must perform the work within Montgomery County.
- Apply the county minimum wage to county employees.
The bill now goes to County Executive Ike Leggett for consideration.
Leggett had lobbied the legislature to increase the state's minimum wage law last year and says he plans to sign the measure.
"I believe it is appropriate, given our higher cost-of-living, for the county to have a higher minimum wage than other parts of the State," Legget says.
He supports the gradual phase-in of the increase, saying it recognizes the need to quickly address underpaid workers and balances the concerns of the business community.
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