The Maryland House of Delegates voted Friday to gradually increase the state minimum wage to $15 an hour by January 2025.
The vote came down largely along party lines, with two Baltimore County Democrats opposing the bill.
During the debate, Republicans said raising the minimum wage would force small businesses to cut jobs or even close entirely.
House Minority Leader Nic Kipke read pleas by business owners in his district in Anne Arundel County.
A salon owner “told me raising the minimum wage would sink her battleship. She said there’s no way I can afford to do what I need to do to keep the doors open,” Kipke said. “I have a restaurant owner in the district. He says, ‘We’re a small family-owned restaurant. We have about 90 employees, and I promise you, I will have to go out of business.”
But Del. Dereck Davis, the head of the Economic Matters Committee, which heard the bill, reminded members that businesses said the last minimum wage increase to $10.10 would be their death knell. Then small businesses grew.
“This calamitous effect that we hear every single time we do this, it’s not borne out by the data,” Davis said.
To appease the business community, the committee changed the bill to allow tips to continue to count toward the minimum wage calculation. That’s something that some progressive legislators say they hope to change, either during negotiations with the Senate on this bill or in the future.