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Raising the minimum wage: Maryland plans yet another assault on business

When one looks at the chokehold Maryland Democrats have on power in this state then one must wonder why they continue to pander to various voting blocks.
By now, taxpayer giveaways have run the gamut – from billions for a “top-rated” school system that still underperforms when the college-preparedness gauge is used - as well as the huge performance disparity between wealthy schools and poor; used and abused and audit-failing entitlement programs that, given the billions thrown at them should have elevated those living in poverty to at least lower middle-class status; free drugs and abortions and pregnancy services; the implementation of an Obamacare-like health care exchange long before the Affordable Care Act came to fruition; the creation of sanctuary cities and counties where illegal immigrants have no fear of prosecution or deportation and special college tuition rates for the children of those illegals.
Political cronies, gambling interests and public unions have been allowed to “wet their beaks” in Don Fanucci-like fashion; government agencies have been expanded; dozens of new tax increases have been thrust upon the middle class but the governor and the General Assembly still manage to outspend their revenue grabs; legislative districts have been sufficiently gerrymandered in a manner that effectively eliminates any Republican chances to win a state-wide election; and the Greenies and the gun-grabbers have been appeased through unconstitutional assaults on property and personal rights.
Yet, just as one begins to wonder if there is anyone left to whom to pander comes word that Gov. O’Malley, the three Democratic candidates hoping to score his job (Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, Attorney General Douglas Gansler and Del. Heather Mizeur), numerous members of the General Assembly and even a Montgomery County councilman are building a coalition in hopes of raising the state’s minimum wage.
As such, and given that the poor, minorities and the aforementioned illegals are more apt to hold such jobs – and more than likely to vote Democrat anyway – the push for raising the minimum has very little to do with pandering and much to do with business incompetence.
"There is momentum building — toward an election in 2014," Kathleen T. Snyder, president and CEO for the Maryland Chamber of Commerce, told the Baltimore Sun. "Anybody who is running for office knows that theme will play well with voters."
Really? In a state that would elect Che Guevara if he ran as a Democrat raising the minimum wage would play well with voters?
Maryland’s ruling party need do nothing to play well with voters save to keep trotting out Xerox copies of the current D Team members.
Raising the minimum wage isn’t just about pandering, it’s about offering additional irrefutable evidence that the Annapolis elites are willing to serve up yet another clunker in a long line of business crippling measures.
Of course, mandatory living wages and movements to increase the minimum are nothing new – during the 2013 session then Montgomery County Sen. Rob Garagiola (D) and Prince George’s County Del. Aisha Braveboy (D) introduced legislation that would have raised the minimum wage to $10 an hour by 2015, and then it would rise automatically – tied to an inflation-driven formula – each year thereafter.
I reiterate… when the labor unions in this state already own the legislature why would sitting officials or office seekers have to continue the charade of caring for their constituents more than they care for their campaign supporters/donors?
Well, there’s the obvious reason that the higher the minimum wage the higher the salaries unions can negotiate when they renew their contracts and because these guys couldn’t tell a business plan from last month’s issue of Highlights magazine.
Maryland’s business climate – already viewed as hostile by corporations, mom and pop stores and the governor of Texas – would only look worse if the General Assembly were to mandate higher wages.
According to the Chamber of Commerce most large employers in the state currently pay well over the minimum wage and Maryland has one of the highest average wages in the country.
But that hasn’t stopped Baltimore City Del. Keith E. Haynes, a Democrat – but I guess that’s redundant – from announcing that he plans to introduce legislation to push the state's hourly rate to $12.50.
And in Montgomery County, Democratic Council member (again, redundant) Marc Elrich said he will offer legislation to bump up that county's minimum pay to $12 an hour.
Why stop there? Why not $15 an hour? Why not $20? Hell, raise it to $25 and we will eliminate poverty in time to beat the Christmas rush.
Laughably, Doug Gansler - the one Democrat pretending to be pro-business (only because he needs some little morsel that separates him from the other cookie-cutter clones on the D-Team) is pushing for a $10 an hour minimum saying that, “We ought to take care of the people who work every day and make sure that they make enough money to actually be able to live and survive in our economy.”
With all due respect, Doug – how about you and your buddies down there in Nap Town stop taking more and more money out of the pockets of low income workers via gas tax and tolls and sales tax and fees? Won’t that also help us live and survive in our economy?
How many small businesses will survive in our economy when the state tells those employers they have to start paying entry level, inexperienced and unskilled workers 10-, 11- or 12-bucks an hour?
For giggles, let’s pretend to increase the minimum wage by 2 dollars… that’s 80 additional dollars per week for a 40-hour worker – which most minimum wage earners are not.
A mere 80 bucks, proponents say, those greedy business people can certainly afford that. But what about the other costs that goes with it? There are also increases in disability and workman’s compensation. What about health care costs – if health care via employers survives Obamacare implementation?
What if the employer has, say, 30 people on the payroll? Expenses just went up $2400 a week – that’s nearly $125,000 per year.
So, what do you do to stay in business? Well you raise taxes, of course… oh wait, that’s the way government operates… not the real world.
What do you do? Pass along the cost in your goods or services? That’s what happens when small businesses are saddled with increased gas taxes and other operating costs.
Will that help consumers survive in this economy, Mr. Gansler?
Do you cut jobs? Say, $125,000 worth of payroll expense, put a freeze on hiring and downsize? Maybe you go with an entire force of part-time people and jettison all health care benefits.
What about workers who started out at the minimum but have since earned pay increases?
When Gansler voiced his support for upping the minimum he also said that businesses stand to gain from paying higher wages because it will reduce turnover among employees. “It makes people loyal to the company,” he said.
How loyal will those employees remain when the new guy starts at a higher salary than experienced workers ? How loyal will they remain when every hourly employee on the payroll has been undercut by a state mandated wage?
And, how much longer will it be before the state mandates what salary an experienced worker has to be paid?
A 2012 Bureau of Labor and Statistics report found that among hourly paid workers age 16 and over, about 10 percent of those who had less than a high school diploma earned the federal minimum wage or less, compared with about 4 percent of those who had a high school diploma (with no college) and about 2 percent of college graduates
The proportion of hourly paid workers earning the federal minimum wage or less declined from 5.2 percent in 2011 to 4.7 percent in 2012 - well below the figure of 13.4 percent in 1979, when data on minimum wage earners was first collected.
Minimum wage positions are just 4.7% of ALL hourly paid workers.
Among employed teenagers paid by the hour, about 21 percent earned the minimum wage or less, compared with about 3-percent of workers age 25 and over. These are not head-of-household earners.
About 5-percent of White, Black, and Latino hourly paid workers earned the federal minimum wage or less. Among Asian workers paid at hourly rates, about 3-percent earned the minimum wage or less.
The minimum wage is not the problem here – the problem is an over-reaching, out-of-control government – on both the federal, state and local level – that has effectively created a service-based economy, eliminated good paying jobs and caused housing, food and other necessities to reach costs that are barely attainable for a family with two working adults.
The problem lies not with what we pay our working class; the problem is created by what government takes from our working class.
Oh, and eight of the 11 Finance Committee members voted against Garagiola’s bill, even after it was stripped of a provision that would index the minimum wage to the consumer price index.
Pandering or lack of business acumen?
Given this Assembly’s track record, safe money gets bet on the latter. Either way, don’t expect the same type of miracle when the legislature convenes again next January.

Maryland Lawmakers are pushing to raise the state's minimum wage during the next General Assembly session
AP Photo/Elaine Thompson
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