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Testimony on Maryland Minimum Wage Act of 2014

As Prepared for Delivery

House Economic Matters Committee

Chairman Davis, thank you for having us here today.

Fifty years ago, President Johnson declared a “war on poverty.”  50 years later, in communities throughout our country – in communities throughout Maryland, from Ocean City to Oakland and everywhere in between – it’s a battle we’re still fighting.

Many of our friends and neighbors have been able to climb the ladder of opportunity towards success.  That’s especially true here in Maryland, where we’ve recovered 100 percent of the jobs lost during the great recession and added jobs on top of that.

But poverty continues to plague too many of our communities.  And poverty continues to impact too many Marylanders who are trying to build better lives for themselves and their families.

I think about a single parent making the minimum wage today – she makes $7.25 an hour, works 40 hours a week…if she can find that much work, and works 52 weeks a year…if she never gets sick or needs time off to care for her child, her parents or herself. At the end of the year, she’s made $15,080 – that’s below the federal poverty line. I think we can – and we must – do better.

Maryland has the best workers in this country.  The Governor and I have worked with many of you to get them the treatment and protections they deserve.  Together, we raised the Earned Income tax credit, to better reward hard work.  Together, we became the first state in the country to pass a living wage.  And together, for the first time in our state’s history, we met – and exceeded – our goals for minority and women-owned business participation.

But we have more work to do, and we’re failing our workers if we’re telling them that a full day’s work isn’t going to get them a family-supporting wage.

We’re here to support raising the minimum wage because it’s going to support businesses by giving them customers with more money to spend…while making a real and positive impact on the workers in those businesses. These are people you see every day: the waitress who serves you your meal; the salesman who helps you pick out a new outfit for work; the cashier at your local supermarket.

Too many of them are working full time and living in poverty.  And we can’t build strong communities if we’re asking our friends and neighbors to work 60, 70, 80 hours a week just to get by.

Living below the poverty line impacts every part of your life – from the ability to buy food for your family, to being able to pay for quality day care for your children…finding a safe, affordable place to live, or paying for the bus, train, or car – if you can afford one – that takes you to and from work.

This legislation isn’t going to solve all of those challenges, but it’s an important step forward for Marylanders who are working, each and every day, to provide for their families.

It gradually raises the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour today to $10.10 an hour in 2016, increasing $0.95 a year for the next three years.  It indexes the bill to inflation, starting in 2017.  And it requires employers pay tipped employees, like waiters and waitresses, at least 70% of our state’s minimum wage.

Success in our state isn’t a zero-sum game.  The truth is that each of us is strengthened when all of us succeed.  And that’s what raising the minimum wage is about: giving all Marylanders the opportunity to get ahead.

By working together, we’ve been able to create jobs even faster than our neighbors in Virginia.  But we can’t rest – we won’t rest – until the people working those jobs are earning a family-supporting wage.

It’s time to give Maryland a raise. I urge you to take the first step by giving HB295 a favorable report.