Ike Leggett vetoes Montgomery Co.’s $15 minimum wage bill

ROCKVILLE, Md. — Montgomery County Executive Isiah “Ike” Leggett says he will veto the $15-an-hour minimum wage measure passed by the county council last week.

In a memo sent to Montgomery County Council President Roger Berliner he would “reluctantly veto” the bill and return it to the council to work on a “more reasonable path to moving the County to a $15 wage.”

In the memo, Leggett said he supports the effort to move toward a $15 minimum wage “over an appropriate timeframe.”

The county council’s measure would have raised the current minimum wage of $10.75 to $11.50 later this year. It would rise again to $12.50 next year; to $13.75 in 2019 and finally to $15 in 2020.

Earlier Monday, during a briefing with reporters, Berliner told reporters county leaders need to “find a better balance for Montgomery County.”

Berliner is among four council members — including Nancy Floreen, Sidney Katz and Craig Rice — who voted against the measure.

Berliner said Montgomery County is different from other jurisdictions that have enacted a $15 minimum wage.

“I don’t consider us to be equivalent to New York City, I don’t consider us to be equivalent to Los Angeles, I don’t consider us to be equivalent to Seattle. We are not a ‘destination’ community like they are,” he said.

At the same time, refusing to make the jump to a $15 minimum doesn’t mean the county won’t OK more incremental increases, Berliner said. “It isn’t about saying ‘no,'” he said. “It is about finding a better balance that minimizes the damages that can — and will be felt — by our small business community. Nobody can deny that is real.”

A coalition of labor and progressive groups issued a statement Monday night saying in part that “Working families who fear life under the Trump presidency need not wait for the White House to make their lives harder – their own local leaders have already started. By vetoing the $15 minimum wage, which enjoys overwhelming public support, Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett has chosen to yank back a critical lifeline and leave working families only a payday away from poverty.”

In order to withstand a veto by the county executive, the council would have had to pass the bill by a vote of 6-3; the vote was 5-4.

WTOP’s Jack Moore contributed to this report. 

Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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