Montgomery Co. votes to raise minimum wage

WASHINGTON – The Montgomery County Council approved a bill Tuesday that would raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by the year 2020 but the measure faces an uncertain future.

The legislation passed on a narrow vote of 5-4. Several members said they believed the council was moving ahead too quickly.

“I’m concerned that we are literally on the verge of voting for a wide sweeping economic policy without the benefit of any economic data that involves the unique situation of Montgomery County,” said Councilmember Sidney Katz. “We need to accomplish raising the minimum wage by considering all aspects of our actions.”

The four members who voted against the bill were hoping to delay action on the minimum wage so the council could first study the effects of recent minimum wage hikes in the county as well as possible effects of further increases.

“Why would you not want to do as much due diligence as you could possibly do to understand what this will mean for our county before we act, rather than after?” asked Montgomery County Council President Roger Berliner.

But supporters said they felt a study would not necessarily help them learn any new information.

“I am simply skeptical,” said Councilmember George Leventhal of a study. “There is no consultant we could hire who could tell us with certainty what will happen in the future.”

“I honestly don’t believe the study is going to answer any questions,” the bill’s sponsor, Councilmember Marc Elrich said.

Although the minimum wage bill had enough votes to pass, it is not clear what will happen next.

For months, Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett has said he might veto the legislation because of possible negative impacts on the business community. However, he has said he could be open to supporting the idea if the wage increase were rolled out in 2022 rather than 2020.

In response to Leggett’s concerns, the bill’s supporters passed amendments providing an extra two years for businesses with 25 or fewer employees to comply with the wage changes.

If Leggett vetoes the measure, proponents would need to convince at least one additional council member to support the bill as six votes are needed to override a veto.

Montgomery County’s minimum wage is $10.75 and is set to rise to $11.50 in July. Under the new legislation, it would increase to $12.50 next year, $13.75 in 2019 and $15 in 2020.

The council has debated an increase in the county’s minimum wage for almost a year and held public hearings last summer.

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